Apple unveils HomePod speaker, iMac upgrades

Elizabeth Williams
June 8, 2017

"We are so pleased to welcome Amazon to Apple TV".

What's interesting about Apple's approach here is that the company has positioned HomePod as a music device first and foremost, a big contrast to the approach of Google which touted its Home speaker as a day-to-day assistant for many aspects of your life. Cook will be joined on stage by other Apple executives and possibly the disembodied voice of design chief Jony Ive, as is tradition.

Of course, premium pricing is Apple's typical strategy, and the company attempts to justify this premium by saying that the combined cost of a Wi-Fi speaker and a smart speaker can easily run $400 to $700. "It will reinvent home audio", boasted Apple CEO Tim Cook.

A survey released last month by research firm eMarketer found Echo speakers held 70.6 percent of the USA market, compared with 23.8 percent for Google Home.

The announcement was made at the tech giant's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California.

Alphabet Inc. followed with Google Home, a speaker introduced previous year. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year.

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But while Amazon and Google have stressed the daily practicalities of the artificial intelligence assistants that run Echo and Home, Apple framed HomePod more as a music-listening platform, with practicalities like reminders and calendar nearly an after thought. If you're Apple, which has thrived by creating closed systems in which iPhone owners are pushed to use iTunes and Mac owners nudged to buy an Apple TV player, that should be scary. That's especially important because people are starting to access information, entertainment and search in a more "pervasive" way that's less dependent on smartphones, he said.

Rather than focusing on being a digital assistant like the Amazon Alexa, the focus of the Apple HomePod is music.

Apple said nothing about VOIP calls and other forms of communication via the HomePod though.

Apple said the new ARkit would make use of the dual-lens camera on the iPhone 7 Plus, making the integration of virtual objects and the real world more realistic.

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Apple also unveiled new Macs, addressing complaints that Apple has let its Mac lineup languish in favor of its better-selling products, namely the iPhone. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops. Not coincidentally, Apple also announced AirPlay 2, which you'll be able to use to pair up speakers and play music in different rooms of your house. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners. The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is usually where Apple previews its software updates.

Ortutay reported from NY.

Other reports by VgToday

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