Apple pushes Siri to the fore at annual developer conference

Wednesday, 07 Jun, 2017

Apple Inc. unveiled Monday its "HomePod" wireless speaker, which the company said "reinvents music in the home" by using Siri intelligence, spacial awareness to sense its location in a room and wireless access to Apple's music library.

Apple clearly hopes to win the AI-assistant race on the design front and by pitching this as a speaker, capitalising on the fact that it already has millions of devices in homes across the world, as well as its own home automation platform, HomeKit.

The pricing of Apple's device was shared at the conference in comparison to both smart home speakers as well as premium audio speakers. If Apple wants to sell more people on its streaming music subscriptions, imagine what it can do if it sells HomePod as a loss leader to push more people on the wisdom of Apple Music on a specially designed home speaker. While the Echo and Home aren't known for great sound quality, Apple engineers - presumably with some help from Beats engineers - built the HomePod for high-fidelity audio quality.

The move is the first into a completely new area by Apple for more than two years as the world's most valuable technology company looks to make up for a dip in iPhone sales and new ways to get customers to use more of its money-making apps and services. The lead-in came during the iOS portion of the event with the announcement that "Speakers" will be a part of Home Kit though iOS 11 and AirPlay 2. This speaker can do what you would expect a smart speaker to do, play music, set reminders, and activate Siri.

The research firm IDC says Apple and Xiaomi each has a worldwide market share of almost 15 percent in the first quarter.

They said it would be Apple's answer to the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, and those who were close to it said those were the products Apple engineers looked to emulate.

Leading up to it, Apple says those outside app developers have earned more than $70 billion since Apple's app store launched in 2008.

Siri might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but Apple knows hardware.

Apple will begin shipping the HomePod to the United States, Britain and Australia in December. So even though Apple TV will soon deliver Amazon content, it can't show it the way other devices can. You can activate it with a wake word - "Hey Siri" - and ask an artificially intelligent assistant, Siri, to play music. The HomePod is able to listen to you while playing music no matter how far you are from the device or how loud the music is playing.

Apple's annual developers conference is the company's chance to preview upcoming features for iPhones, iPads, watches and Mac computers. 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.

Along the same lines, the iPad's multitasking capabilities are also getting a major upgrade, thanks to the new App Switcher feature. Daryanani said Apple may also announce an iPad Pro with a faster processor in an attempt to revive its long-slumping tablet sales. Although the format is not exclusive to Apple, it's not yet clear how well the photos will work with non-Apple software and devices, which mostly use JPEG.