Apple unveils $349 HomePod to compete with Amazon Echo, Google Home

"HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a lovely speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion-free music and be a helpful assistant around your home".

Apple Inc on Monday introduced the HomePod, a voice-controlled speaker that can make music suggestions and adjust home temperatures, taking aim at Amazon.com Inc's Alexa feature and Echo devices. Schiller announced Siri first and foremost as the Homepod's "musicologist", but he eventually listed off a variety of standard Siri-styled voice requests, such as managing home lights and answering questions about news, weather, and sports scores.

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. The product will launch in the US, UK and Australia in December 2017 and in other markets in 2018.

The new Apple HomePod is a lot like its competitors: Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Apple so much wants us to think of music first (and, especially, its Apple Music streaming service and 40 million tracks) that it led with music as the defining feature of the HomePod.

At about 7 inches tall, the HomePod is a bit squatter than the Amazon Echo, but roughly the same size as Google Home.

Apple, though, doesn't sell its primary products at a loss or anything close to it. The Google Home and Amazon Echo are both priced below that but we still don't know the sound differences and capabilities between them.

The device is a tad bit expensive compared to Google and Amazon's offerings at $349 a pop, available in white and space gray.

It also has worked with gym equipment manufacturers, so Apple Watch users can sync with machines they work out on in the future.

Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing, said on stage that the product has been in the works for "years".

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released previous year, were the first entrants in a promising market.

Apple says that all of the information HomePod gathers is encrypted and sent to Apple anonymously.

Apple said it had updated the processors in its iMac and MacBook Pro lineup to Intel's most recent "Kaby Lake" processors.

Apple also unveiled new Macs, addressing complaints that Apple has let its Mac lineup languish in favor of its better-selling products, namely the iPhone.

There are also rumors the company will announce a new smart speaker and updates to its Mac and iPad lines. The new speaker establishes a bulwark inside the home to lock customers more tightly into these services.

The younger siblings of the Apple hardware world, the Apple TV and Apple Watch are also due for some software updates.

Spending on smart home related hardware, services and installation fees will reach $155 billion by 2022, up from nearly $90 billion this year, with devices accounting for about half of that, the consulting firm also estimates.

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