New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Amazon Echo, Google Home Devices Raise Privacy Questions

At the event in San Jose, Northern California, not far from Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Cook said his company now has 16 million registered software developers worldwide for its consumer electronics and 3 million of them were added a year ago. This gives CEO Tim Cook an opening to partner with a myriad of venders, in the same fashion the iTunes Store brought together several music labels. Plus, it can analyze the acoustics of your home and adjust the sound based on the location of the speaker, and angle the sound in the optimal direction, giving a new definition to a "smart" speaker.

Apple is pitching the HomePod as a music player above everything else, perhaps because Siri is perceived to be far weaker than Google's Assistant and Amazon's Echo intelligent assistants.

Apple on Monday introduced a music speaker, its first hardware since Apple Watch was rolled out two years ago, at this year's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The device is covered in black or white mesh and looks like the top of a microphone. In fact, it's powered by an A8 chip, the same as what's inside your iPhone.

Apple has not confirmed the price of the HomePod for the UK. But the product seems directly inspired by existing smart speakers from Amazon and Google. Amazon pioneered the category with its Echo device in 2014 and has sold an estimated 11 million speakers.

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The speaker has the "power to rock the house", according to Schiller, who said the team worked to make HomePod an potent assistant for news, messages, weather, traffic, home controls and more. Apple says HomePod is "spatially aware" and can respond as such.

It can do the usual list of tasks we've come to expect from smart speakers, though it appears to have minimal third-party integration. Pulling music from the Apple library, the speaker was presented as being able to recognize its placement and direct rich audio sound into the room. It features a high-definition speaker and runs the Apple Music streaming service, features the company hopes will give it an edge against the Echo and Google's rival Home device. The echo-cancellation technology, on the other hand, will enable the HomePod to listen to you even in extremely noisy surroundings.

Apple is said to be taking a cautious approach to overly expanding Siri, instead working on improving its voice recognition so it can understand nuance.

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