Apple Joins Smart-Speaker Race With Music-Focused 'HomePod'

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Apple will later this year release a "HomePod" music-centric smart home speaker, challenging a market now dominated by Amazon and Google in its latest move to weave deeper into people's lives.

HomePod, powered Apple's Siri digital assistant, will begin shipping in December in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The speaker will compete directly with Amazon's Echo and Google Home for the lucrative smart speaker market.

"We want to reinvent music in the home in the way we invented mobile music, ' said Mr Cook, "we really think its going to take your home music experience to the next level".

The speaker has the "power to rock the house", according to Schiller, and the aim is to make HomePod a potent assistant for news, messages, weather, traffic, home controls and more.

The conference is typically devoted to software updates and this year, Apple released a series of new features and updates for the iPhone, the iPad, Mac and the Apple Watch - including an augmented-reality kit for developers aimed at making the iPhone "the largest AR platform in the world".

Analysts said Apple is playing to its strength in the music industry by focusing on sound quality and its catalog of songs. The HomePod will use its internal microphones to pick up voice commands and uses the same processor chip as the iPhone to pump out "spatially aware" sound, Apple said. For instance, Apple initially resisted enlarging the size of iPhone's screen despite strong sales for larger-display phones made by Samsung and other rivals.

Siri will add inflection to her voice, to say phrases three different ways.

Apple will go head-to-head with rivals Amazon and Google, as the USA tech giant throws its hat into the growing smart home arena.

Apple said it is also using "on-device learning" to enable Siri to take people's tastes into account.

Apple earlier introduced a new version of its iPad Pro, as well as a raft of new software updates.

The HomePod will be priced at $349, more expensive than Amazon's $180 Echo or $50 Dot and Google's $129 Home.

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

Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi said the next Mac operating system will be named "High Sierra" in tribute to the California mountain range.

On the software front, RBC Capital analyst Amit Daryanani expects the iOS 11 - the next operating system for Apple's iPhones and iPads - to get an overhaul that will accommodate the anticipated removal of the home button from the 10th anniversary model of the iPhone due out later this year.

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