Apple debuts HomePod speaker to bring Siri into the living room

Apple Inc.is already in your pocket, on your desk and underneath your television.

The iPhone-maker has started manufacturing a long-in-the-works Siri-controlled smart speaker, according to people familiar with the matter. With this new device, Apple's overall message is clear - Apple HomePod is here to take on Amazon Echo and Google Home.

In earlier articles, we covered all the reasons why the product will definitely sell a few million units, but we also raised a question about long-term sustainability unless Apple made some serious moves with Siri's skills for various tasks.

Apple has finally joined the smart speaker fray, following the tack of fellow tech giants Amazon and Google. With HomePod, only after "Hey Siri" is recognized locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier.

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment.

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. Created to work with an Apple Music subscription for access to over 40 million songs, the HomePod provides deep knowledge of personal music preferences and tastes and helps users discover new music. That set of products generated $11 billion in sales past year. The company "can't afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others", said Geoff Blaber, research analyst at CCS Insight. An Inventec representative didn't respond to a request for comment outside normal business hours in Taiwan.

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The company also showcased some impressive software, including support for virtual reality and an SDK enabling developers to leverage the technology.

"It's clearly about the hardware but also making Siri more obvious to consumers so you can see where she's getting smarter", said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies. Along with generating virtual surround sound, the speakers being tested are louder and reproduce sound more crisply than rival offerings, the people said.

The firm says HomePod is a breakthrough wireless speaker for the home that delivers incredible audio quality and uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjust the audio. Cook is aiming to double services revenue, which also includes products like iCloud and Apple Music, to around $50 billion by 2020. This is the same processor found in the latest generation Apple iPhone.

Once set up, Home Pod will be able to control lights, alarms, and other products around the home. At present, an Apple TV or iPad is required to control that equipment from outside the home or automatically. Apple's deep community of developers helps it compete against Google and Amazon.

"I don't think it will be the next iPhone", Blau said of HomePod, "but, Apple could gain share and be a leader".

An Apple-designed speaker with high-end sound quality that fits perfectly into the Apple ecosystem is a familiar pitch. Apple's entry into the market could change that. With its bulky size and high price point, the Hi-Fi flopped and was discontinued within 18 months of launching.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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