IT&Software

Siri, speakers and software: Highlights from the Apple show

Siri, speakers and software: Highlights from the Apple show

The "HomePod" speaker unveiled at Apple's annual developers conference is similar to rival devices that have been released during the past two years.

The price is quite a jump from Google's $129 Home and Amazon's $180 full-sized Echo.

"HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a attractive 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", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior VP of worldwide marketing. Created to pair with an iPhone and play music via a user's Apple Music subscription, the device will also field queries and control other smart home devices thanks to Siri integration. When you say "Hey Siri", it starts listening for your command or question.

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

Both Amazon Echo and Google Home respond to voice commands to play songs, look up stuff online, check the weather, set a reminder or control Internet-connected home appliances.

It starts shipping later this year in the US, United Kingdom and Australia.

WWDC is traditionally the place where Apple shows off improvements to the software that powers its devices, rather than hardware revisions or brand new machines.

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Although a new product announcement from Apple isn't the major pop-cultural event that it used to be, the pitiless taskmaster that is capitalism demands that the company continue pressing ever forward with sleek new gadgets exciting enough to convince consumers that last year's gadget just isn't good enough anymore.

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.

"There is so much momentum building around these speakers that it would be hard for Apple not to come out with one", said industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy. Apple Music now has 27 million subscribers, Schiller said, with the aim being to provide subscribers with the best home audio experience possible. It will block videos that start playing automatically, for instance, and can also prevent ads from following and profiling users.

Apple is introducing a 10.5-inch iPad Pro in an attempt to revive interest in its once hot-selling line of tablets. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

New features coming to iPhones and iPads include messages that sync to Apple servers in the cloud. Apple also laid some groundwork for augmented reality, the projection of digital features onto real-world surroundings, by giving app developers tools for incorporating AR into their products.

Apple is also bringing the ability to pay someone back through its payment service, Apple Pay, much as PayPal and other services already do.


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