New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Apple ‘to unveil Amazon Echo-style smart speaker powered by Siri' today

The New York Times notes that the biggest casualty of Apple entering the voice-enabled home speaker realm may end up being Sonos, whose app-controlled, internet-enabled stereo devices remain popular in-home speaker options.

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

Against other smart home assistants, the HomePod's targets are different from ostensible competitors like the Amazon Echo.

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

Using the wake command "Hey Siri", the much-rumoured device can play music as well as answer queries and control other smart home appliances.

Apple will roll out the free update sometime this fall.

More than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year, according the research firm eMarketer.

Safari, Apple's web browser, is getting new features aimed at online annoyances.

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Apple says Amazon will be making an app for its video service for the Apple TV device this year, filling one of the major gaps on Apple's streaming TV device. It's the first time in 15 years that Apple has held its conference in San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley. That device was just a multi-touch feature phone with a few Apple utilities until it became everything with the App Store launch.

A set of iOS 11 features including enabling smartphone cameras to read QR codes are aimed at the China market, where Apple would like to bolster iPhone sales. If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.

Still, the Apple Watch hasn't been a smash hit, fueling worries that the company's ability to transfix customers had waned after the 2011 death of co-founder Steve Jobs.

But it's also possible that the HomePod could expose Siri as less capable than Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana, Blaber said.

Samsung doubled the number of wearable devices shipped compared with the previous year, but it's still at fourth overall, at less than 5 percent, just ahead of Garmin.

The speaker is part of Apple's smart home drive, which began with Apple HomeKit. HomePod has a large, Apple-designed woofer for deep and clean bass aside from a custom array of seven bean-forming tweets with pure high-frequency acoustics and enhanced directional control.

With sleek branding, favored integrations with Apple's other products, and the company's retail footprint, HomePod could mature into a true contender if Siri can get smarter. But on a screenless speaker like HomePod, if Siri sucks, the whole gadget does too.

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