Technology

New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conferenceā€

Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the five-day WWDC with announcements of a a new operating system, a new iPad Pro and a the HomePod, a music speaker and home assistant.

The smart speaker works by talking to an updated Siri that better understands music-related requests, Apple said during its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California.

Apple also unveiled a key content deal when Chief Executive Tim Cook said that Amazon Prime Video, long absent from the Apple TV product, would come to Apple devices such as the TV, iPhones and iPad later this year. "We feel like we reinvented that in the portable player area, and we think we can reinvent it in the home as well". It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

The message is clear: We're getting smarter now, so don't even worry about using the Google stuff.

And that's on top of however many songs Apple sells through iTunes.

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The Cupertino company described the 7in device, which comes in white and "space grey", as a "breakthrough home speaker" created to "rock the house". For comparison, a Sonos Play:1 and Amazon Echo Dot (which will work together this later year) now cost a combined US$300. Many of those apps are sold via the App Store, which was revamped, and Apple gets a cut of all those sales. But Apple occasionally also uses the event to introduce new devices and services and upgrades to existing products.

The HomePod will be priced at $349, more expensive than Amazon's $180 Echo or $50 Dot and Google's $129 Home. But it's a lot cheaper than the iPhone, which starts at $649 and is now the main way people access Siri.

HomePod wants to be the best of both worlds, without being that much more expensive than some of its key competitors: The Apple-made speaker will cost consumers $349, and ship in December in the USA, U.K., and Australia.

Consumer spending on smart home related products and services will reach almost $90 billion this year and reach $155 billion by 2022, according to consultant Strategy Analytics.

The trend-setting company also is putting new twists on existing products as it delves deeper into virtual reality and a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning. HomePod uses the company's A8 chip, which Apple also used to use for its mobile devices, and a multicolor LED light on top of the device will signal whenever Siri is listening. So we thought we'd make ourselves useful and tell you what you should pay attention to and what you could skip over to save time. While Siri was previously available on the Apple Watch, the assistant's ability to automatically show information was limited. If you're into tablets, Apple has something for you. For example, Federighi said, if you research Iceland, when you go to News, Siri will suggest an article about Iceland.

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Rumors of Apple building an Echo competitor were first reported a year ago. Augmented reality is the blending of the physical and virtual worlds.

Schiller also addressed privacy concerns: Until the device hears "Hey Siri", it does not send any other communication to Apple, he said.

A preview of a new high-powered iMac Pro desktop, due to be released later this year, was also teased. Although Siri does support a narrow set of third party voice actions on iOS devices, it's unclear whether these will be accessible on HomePod.

"Though Apple appears to be playing catch up with Amazon and Google, the primary casualty here may be Sonos".

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