Friday, 20 October, 2017

Apple unveils 'HomePod' speaker, first new product in years

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Lucas Bell | 10 June, 2017, 11:54

After all, the market for such devices is growing fast, and projected to keep expanding: in a report this month, research firm eMarketer predicted almost 36 million Americans will use a speaker-based voice-assistant each month this year, more than twice as many as a year ago.

With an image of Amazon Echo behind him, he exclaimed, "Others have worked to make smart speakers that you can talk to, but they don't sound so great when you listen to music".

HomePod will taking Amazon Echo and Google Home, which have been building momentum in the market for voice-controlled speakers capable of controlling smart appliances, fetching content from the internet and more.

Going along with the typical Apple aesthetic, the HomePod is clearly meant to look high-end and expensive, with "excellent" sound quality thanks to those seven tweeters and subwoofer. Making the most of it will require a subscription to Apple's own music streaming service, which runs $10 to $15 per month and has attracted 27 million subscribers so far.

It's the first time in 15 years that Apple has held its conference in San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley.

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However, its the smart functionality, combined with Siri voice control ("Hey Siri") and Apple Music which, using six microphones around the circumference, streams tracks using plenty of contextual phrases. Apple Music is estimated to have over 20 million users.

"What we tried to do is build something that is a breakthrough speaker first", Apple CEO Tim Cook told Bloomberg.

It is the first new device Apple has announced in nearly three years. While the Google Home retails for $129 and the Echo for $179 (with semi-frequent sales on both), the HomePod will go on sale for $349.

Apple had plenty of other announcements. Apple's entry into the market could change that. That device was just a multi-touch feature phone with a few Apple utilities until it became everything with the App Store launch. So Apple is forced to focus on music, because Siri simply can't stand up as a home assistant.

Apple kicked off its annual developer conference on Monday by unveiling a proactive "Siri face" for the Apple Watch that will enable the voice-activated assistant to provide relevant information to users throughout the day based on the time of day and daily routines. The company also released a new computer, the iMac Pro.

One of the anecdotes the report details concerns the hiring of Bill Stasior, a former Amazon search executive who arrived at Apple to oversee Siri about a year of Steve Jobs's death, the man who brought Siri to Apple. For Apple, having one would further broaden the role that its software, services and gadgets play in people's lives.


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