WWDC 2017: Apple introduces smart compact music speaker

- Apple Inc. has unveiled a new device called the HomePod, a voice-activated smart speaker that is a lot like Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Siri's music IQ must be pretty good, because users can ask more sophisticated music-related questions, such as "Who composed this song?" or "What album came out on this day 20 years ago?"

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com was an early player in the domestic market for smart speakers with its LingLong DingDong, a device launched previous year by its joint venture with local speech-recognition software specialist iFlytek.

The HomePod is Apple's first new gadget in almost three years, following its announcement of the Apple Watch in September 2014.

He pointed out, however, that the new Apple product will compete squarely against wireless home speaker systems from the likes of Bose and Sonos, and indirectly against the Amazon Echo and Google Home digital assistants. On the other hand, Google Home has a 2-inch driver and dual 2-inch passive radiators while Amazon Echo has built-in 2.0-inch tweeter accompanied by a 2.5-inch woofer. That is about to change, however, when the Homepod is set to hit the market in December.

"Apple being very clever by launching its Siri speaker as a music speaker that's smart, because Siri isn't great", said Tom Warren from the technology news site The Verge. 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. 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.

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The HomePod is Apple's first new gadget in almost three years, following its announcement of the Apple Watch in September 2014. And as more people install Internet-connected speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home , Siri is missing from that too.

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes", says Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

Apple also made improvements to Siri including making the assistant's voice sound more natural when responding to users. This year virtual reality is a factor; the new iMacs will also support graphics for VR content creation.

Next up was Apple's new version of macOS called High Sierra, which was launched with new Safari browser. It also introduced autoplay blocking, which stops music and video from playing automatically without your permission on websites as well as "intelligent tracking prevention", which stops ads from following you around the web.

Apple had plenty of other announcements.

The new iPad Pro also comes with a better camera - the same one found in the iPhone 7 - along with more storage, a better display and faster refreshing of moving images. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops. The bullet points include updates to Apple's operating systems for everything, from the TV to Watch to mobile devices and computers. So far, the service has limited payments to purchases of products and services from companies and other organizations.

"It's so cool, we really believe it is going to take your home music experience to the next level", Apple chief executive Tim Cook said of the new device.

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