New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

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Apple nodded to several up-and-coming technology trends, unveiling a new "smart" home speaker and device features touching on virtual reality, online privacy and a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning. It's likely any speaker unveiled by Apple will of course use Apple Music to stream tunes and users can request songs to start playing with the power of their voice.

The Amazon Echo and the Google Home operate in a similar way, using voice commands to wake the assistant to ask for help.

The June 2017 update brings two main new features to your Alexa voice assistant.

Currently, Apple's Siri works with only six types of app: ride-hailing and sharing; messaging and calling; photo search; payments; fitness; and auto infotainment systems.

"Just like iPod reinvents music in our pockets, HomePod will reinvent music in our homes", he said.

Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has stressed the importance of Apple's services business, predicting it will double in size by 2021.




The speaker, in White and Space Gray, is being worked on for December shipping times in the US, UK and Australia for $349 or local equivalents.

Google has its own smart speaker that was released in response to the Echo, though the Google Home clearly isn't putting much of a dent in Alexa speaker sales. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year. It also includes new technology like Apple's AirPlay 2 protocol, which allows multi-speaker support that will enable multiple HomePod devices to wirelessly communicate with each other.

With a new watch face, Apple Watch promises to learn about your routines to figure out what information to display on the watch face. That makes it a bit taller than the portly Google Home, and slightly shorter than canister-shaped Amazon Echo. 39% of smart speaker owners use them to set reminders, and 41% use them to set timers anyway, so why not make it more functional (and by more functional I mean actually functional in the first place)? Apple said all communications are encrypted. However, given Apple's design pedigree, we'd expect it to knock both its competitors into a cocked hat from a purely visual standpoint.

Apple made the argument that the HomePod speaker combines the best of the new speaker idea out there. It will not block the ads themselves, though. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

After some setup, Alexa can order a pizza from Domino's, while Siri cannot get a pie because food delivery is not - so far - one of the categories of apps that Apple has opened up to Siri.

Ortutay reported from NY.

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