Apple's HomePod speaker pumps up the volume on tech rivals

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

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

Apple on Monday unveiled its "HomePod" speaker as it moved to challenge Amazon Alexa and Google Home as a smart home and music hub. The HomePod lets use your voice to play music and control HomeKit devices like smart light bulbs or thermostats, as well as letting you chat with Siri. The HomePod is created to work along with Apple Music, so it essentially requires one to have a subscription to music streaming service, which will give access to over 40 million songs. Apple also announced a new translation service in Siri between English, Chinese and the four most popular European languages.

Technically speaking, you'll be able to play any music you want on the HomePod.

Apple nodded to several up-and-coming technology trends, unveiling new device features touching on virtual reality (VR), online privacy and a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning. The most interesting announcement at the event was the launch of the Apple HomePod - Cupertino's attempt to recreate the humble speaker in much the same way that Steve Jobs iPod and iPhone.

"HomePod is going to re-invent music in our homes", said Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing head, during the keynote. Second, the HomePod needs to at the very least match both competing devices in terms of voice integration.

Amazon has dominated the connected speakers category since 2014 when it introduced its first Echo, which responds to voice commands and allows users to order goods and control connected appliances. Google followed with its Home speaker, featuring its plain-named Assistant, last year.

The new iPad Pro will be available in three sizes, including a 10.5 inch model.

The improved version will be a part of the upcoming macOS High Sierra operating system, expected as a public beta in June and a full release in the fall.

With consumers less interested in buying new tablets, Apple has increased its focus on designing tablets for professionals to do much of the same work that they usually perform on a laptop computer.

"There are a few updates to its laptop line", he said of the new MacBook and MacBook Pro.

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 map program.

HomePod users may initially be constrained by Siri's lack of capabilities as compared to Alexa, which also boasts the ability to order millions of Amazon products as well as food from restaurants like Domino's.

Analyst Geoff Blaber from CCS Insight said these updates could be vital to Apple and the HomePod's success.

The free software update for mobile devices, iOS 11, is expected in September when Apple typically releases new iPhones.

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