Apple unveils an Amazon Echo competitor

"Given the price point relative to competitive offerings, we would expect the near-term impact from HomePod to be immaterial", Piper Jaffray's Michael Olson wrote in a note to clients. Apple will also have new tools for organizing photos and creating sharable videos.

The tech giant unveiled its new seven-inch, compact HomePod at its Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California.

Running behind Amazon, Google and the Android creator Andy Rubin's Essential Home, Apple has finally confirmed its own standalone digital assistant product, or "Siri speaker", the HomePod.

"You're dealing with one Siri", said Apple software chief Craig Federighi.

"Apple is a company that deeply cares about music and wants to deliver a great audio experience to the home", Cook said. However, consumers have found that talking to an assistant while on the move in the street is very different to interacting with a smart speaker in the home, which is how Amazon had such success with the Echo, shifting a reported 11 million devices by the end of 2016.

Before Monday's updates, the Siri assistant was still mostly an advanced web search that could tell the occasional pre-programmed joke.

The new gadget will be a direct rival to both the Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers.

Apple also revealed new safety systems for using iPhones within cars, featuring an enhanced "do not disturb" function.

Apple is expected to announce plans this week to make its Siri voice assistant work with a larger variety of apps, but initial changes were expected to add just a small number of capabilities.

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

Still, the HomePod will be built with standard home assistant functionality. Apple shares have gained 3% in the past month, compared to the S&P 500's gain of 1.5%.

Apple had plenty of other announcements. Siri will now use machine learning to predict the times of a morning commute - or scan the travel news as you are reading it on the company's Safari browser and then suggest related activities, such as booking a reservation.

Apple said it will be the "most powerful Mac" the company has ever made.

Siri will now also make suggestions based on the user's habit. It will not block the ads themselves, though.

To revive interest in its once-hot tablets, Apple is introducing a 10.5-inch iPad Pro with more storage, a better camera and room for a full-size keyboard.

The highlight of this year's WWDC would indeed be the new version of Apple's mobile operating system - iOS 11. They will sync messages to Apple servers in the cloud and keep only the most recent messages in local storage. The app store now had a placeholder listing for a brand new App from Apple called "Files".

Taking direct aim at services like those provided by PayPal Holdings Inc, Apple also debuted peer-to-peer payments for Apple Pay in which users will be able to send money through the Messages app on iPhones.

Ortutay reported from NY.

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