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07 June 2017, 10:49 | Gerardo Harmon
In a world where people have invited online microphones into their homes in a bid to make their lives easier, Apple has been conspicuous in it's absence.
Our homes might already be filled with the chatter of Amazon Echos and Google Homes, but guess who's just knocked on the door? Schiller said devices like the Amazon Echo have poor sound quality, and wifi speakers like Sonos don't have interactive voice assistants.
Some industry insiders, however, note Apple will be under more pressure to improve the computing smarts of its Siri software in the face of offerings from rivals Google and Amazon. That's especially important because people are starting to access information, entertainment and search in a more "pervasive" way that's less dependent on smarthphones, he said.
Starting at $349, the device, which ships in December, is almost double the cost of the Amazon Echo ($179.99) and more than three times the price of the Google Home ($109). Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Microsoft Cortana are now deeply embedded within our homes, smartphones and pop culture. Google followed with its Home speaker, featuring its plain-named Assistant, last year. Apple's announcement Monday had so much information that some compared it to a data dump.
Positioning the HomePod as a music-focused smart speaker is no surprise, as Apple knows one thing or two about music indeed.
"The fact that Apple is claiming to marry really great and smart audio with a smart assistant and cloud music service makes this device unique in the market so far".
All the while, Apple has been quietly hiring and acquiring AR and VR talent, with reports indicating that the company now has several hundred employees working on these technologies. Once again, Apple has illustrated how they prefer to take a step back and assess where the market is moving before throwing their virtual hat in the ring and carving out their own niche. Its entry into digital-music sales with iTunes, and into the smartphone market with the iPhone, upended those industries and gave them mass appeal. These devices will only keep the most recent messages in local storage.
Apple is also bringing the ability to send money to friends or other people through its payment service, Apple Pay.
Apple introduced iOS 11, the next version of the software that powers the iPhone and iPad, and rolled out new tools for developers to create augmented reality applications for the devices.
We all have unique requirements, and it's not unusual to have an iPhone, but use Google Chrome on it for web browsing instead of Safari, and subscribe to music streaming services that are not Apple's. Reading between the lines, there may be a slight admission here that HomePod might not be the smartest speaker on the block, but it will certainly sound the best.
There's also an update to WatchOS with a new Siri interface and a new Music app for the Apple Watch, and laptops are getting updates, with a new faster 21.5-inch MacBook Air with 4K high resolution that will start at around $1,300, and a new 13-inch MacBook Pro that starts at $1,300. The new 10.5-inch model offers room for a full-size keyboard, something the 9.7 inch model couldn't. So if you are wedded into the Apple ecosystem, then by all means buy it.
It starts shipping later this year in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia.
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However, it'll also take on other tasks to help distinguish itself in the increasingly crowded smart speaker market. Three years later, Apple has yet to introduce a voice-control speaker that isn't tied to its mobile software iOS.
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