Published: Fri, June 09, 2017
Culture&Arts | By Lena Vasquez

WWDC 2017: Apple Unveils HomePod, Its Siri-Powered Smart Home Speaker

WWDC 2017: Apple Unveils HomePod, Its Siri-Powered Smart Home Speaker

If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.

The conference is typically devoted to software updates and this year, Apple released a series of new features and updates for the iPhone, the iPad, Mac and the Apple Watch - including an augmented-reality kit for developers aimed at making the iPhone "the largest AR platform in the world".

The HomePod, to be launched later this year, has six microphones built into it and is powered by Apple's smart assistant Siri.

The price is quite a jump from Google's $129 Home and Amazon's $180 full-sized Echo. With Siri most widely used on iPhone, Apple risked missing out on the daily, at-home tasks consumers increasingly use Echo or Home for - reminders, calendars, music.

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The $349 HomePod wifi speaker has 7 beam-forming tweeters, a custom subwoofer, multi-channel echo cancelling, and acoustic modeling in an Apple-y little futuristic shell, trumpeted VP Phil Schiller.

Apple also unveiled the high-end iMac Pro for power users at its annual conference for software programmers Monday. The new model will start at $649 for 64GB of storage and cost up to $949 for 512GB.

We won't see the new speaker in market until later this year, with Apple listing pricing at $US349 when it ships in December. Google Home followed in October and Microsoft's assistant, Cortana, is also finding a home in home speakers.

Apple has finally unveiled its answer to Amazon's and Google's smart speakers slash digital assistants - and it's called HomePod.

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The company also introduced its updated operating system for the Apple Watch. The HomePod is powered by Apple's A8 chip and will be available from December in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the USA, which will be getting the initial batch of speakers in White and Space Grey at $349 (roughly Rs. 22,500).

Apple is late on VR. The HomePod is created to work along with Apple Music, so it essentially requires one to have a subscription to music streaming service, which will give access to over 40 million songs.

It starts shipping later this year in the US, United Kingdom and Australia. Apple's HomePod will rely on its own HomeKit for support while Google Home has various partners for smart home hardware that include Samsung, Nest and Philips. Amazon has also emphasized bringing Alexa to other devices outside of the Echo like home TVs and appliances.

Apple's recent emphasis on privacy and encryption could give it an edge here: The company said HomePod won't send anything to a remote server until it hears "Hey, Siri", meaning that it will conduct basic language processing locally on the device so as not to snoop, even innocently, on its users. It would mark an effort by Apple to catch up with Amazon and Google.

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