New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Delia Watkins
June 6, 2017

It'll be a while before the HomePod official goes on sale, but right now it has one clear edge over the competition: it's just a killer speaker. It would mark an effort by Apple to catch up with Amazon and Google. Today we're having a closer look at Apple official.

The speaker connects to home wifi and will be controlled by the human voice.

Schiller was much more interested in talking up Siri as a "musicologist". Whether or not the same separation will work via AirPlay 2-connected music from other services isn't entirely clear, but it will work for other sources. In addition, Siri on the HomePod can help you answer some of your most burning questions like, "What's the best Korean barbecue restaurant nearby?" or "Did the Warriors win last night?"

"It will reinvent home audio", said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

More than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year, according the research firm eMarketer. We'll have to wait until December like everywhere else, but it's reassuring to know at least that we won't be left waiting without any release date whatsoever as we have with the Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released past year, were the first entrants in a promising market. However, the market for such devices is nascent and expected to grow by 129 percent this year to 35.6 million users. The move is the first into a completely new area by Apple for more than two years. Although that product came out after other smartwatches hit the market, it quickly outshone competitors, according to industry research firms.

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The lack of a breakthrough device has periodically raised concerns that Apple has become too dependent on the iPhone and supported the theory that the company lost its knack for innovation when its co-founder Steve Jobs died of cancer in 2011.

The research firm IDC says Apple and Xiaomi each has a worldwide market share of almost 15 percent in the first quarter. Google and Amazon's comparable offerings will make that tricky. Presumably, more information will be made available soon.

One could argue that the only thing more hyped in mobile than the Apple Wallet has been augmented reality. The company had Industrial Light and Magic's John Knoll on stage for a live demo of a Vive virtual reality Star Wars game using a Mac.

Safari, Apple's web browser, is getting new features aimed at online annoyances. But Apple also used the event to introduce a new piece of hardware and give some major upgrades to existing products. The new iPads also come with a redesigned Retina display featuring ProMotion, a new technology that delivers 120Hz refresh rates for smoother scrolling and motion, including with the Apple Pencil.

Apple also offered some hints about new capabilities in the next iPhone, including so-called augmented reality, in which digital information is overlaid on real-world images. Or if someone texts you about owing money, it will ask if you want to pay from your Apple Pay account. So far, the service has limited payments to purchases of products and services from companies and other organizations.

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