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

Apple Home Pod speaker announced at Apple's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

Apple Home Pod speaker announced at Apple's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

It is created to work with the Apple Music subscription service and can produce rich sound while tapping into the artificial intelligence power of Siri.

The iMac Pro features Intel Xeon processors up to 18 cores and the new Radeon Pro Vega graphics processing unit with up to 16GB of video memory.

Second, when Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing, came back to the stage to present the device, he spent much of his time highlighting how well it plays music-explaining the minutia of its built-in tweeters and woofer. The device is compatible with iPhone 5s and later, running iOS 11. These types of music-related capabilities are limited to Apple Music subscribers, though; if you don't want to pay a monthly fee, Siri won't be able to help you here. It will allow users to talk to Siri, Apple's digital assistant, while at home and costs US$349 (S$ 481) - nearly double the price of most competing products.

Siri now also has a male American voice, and is said to be more expressive due to a new visual interface.

Apple has finally revealed its long awaited Siri-connected speaker at this year's WWDC, a direct rival to the likes of the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The new model starts at $649 and will start shipping next week.

More broadly, Apple has built tools for artificial intelligence and augmented reality, and now the company is starting to let outside developers use those tools to enhance their own applications.

This new breed of smart speaker is an important market for Apple and other tech giants, including Microsoft (MSFT), which last month announced the Invoke, a smart speaker powered by its Cortana.

While the HomePod is always listening for the "Hey Siri" prompt, no information will be sent to Apple's servers until that command is heard.

Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant are going to be smarter, more clever and more intuitive than anything Apple puts into the HomePod. This always happens during a product announcement, and Apple's pricing is always a hot topic during these events.

Sixteen years ago, Apple revolutionized the technology industry when it released the first iPod.

Apple told the developers they were overhauling the App Store, giving it a fresh look, and beginning to add the floor plans of shops and airports to its mapping program. Apple is also bringing improvements to playing music and recording fitness activities.

The speaker, which will cost US$349 and be available in December, is the third new product category Apple has entered since Chief Executive Tim Cook assumed leadership of thefirm in 2011, the Journal noted. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

The conference starts Monday in San Jose, California. For Apple, HomePod is seen as gateway to keep users on the Apple ecosystem.

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