New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

The "HomePod" speakers as it moved to challenge Amazon Alexa and Google home as a smart home and music hub.

At the company's annual developer conference on Monday, Apple announced a new WiFi speaker called HomePod that will play music and respond to voice commands with Apple's digital assistant, Siri.

"We completely reimagined how a speaker should make music in the home".

Introduced at Monday's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple's HomePod will combine the latest in speaker technology with the artificial intelligence trappings of its Siri system. It features six microphones so users should be able to communicate with the almost 7-inch tall speaker from across the room, whether it's asking Siri who plays a song, sending a message to a pal, or commanding different aspects of a smart home setup.

In the privacy arena, Apple executives touted the fact that until the user says "Hey Siri" the speaker does not send any information to Apple.

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The speaker has the "ability to rock the house", according to Schiller, who said the team operated to make HomePod a potent assistant for news, messages, weather, traffic, home controls and more. For Apple, HomePod is seen as gateway to keep users on the Apple ecosystem. It boasts a 27-inch display, and like the other new iMac updates, is powerful enough to support virtual reality (VR) headsets including HTC's Vive platform. Google recently launched its own Echo imitation, the Google Home, powered by the still-nameless Google Assistant. Amazon sells the main version of the Echo for $180; Google's Home speaker goes for $130. Siri can handle advanced searches within the music library, so users can ask questions or create a shared Up Next queue with everyone in the home.

That means if you've got smartlights that are Apple optimised, you can switch them on-and-off using HomePod. But to what extent Apple can surpass market leaders Amazon and Google?

The company is also launching new models of both the iPad and the Mac computer.

The HomePod is Apple's first new gadget in almost three years, following its announcement of the Apple Watch in September 2014. This processor helps power the device as well as ensures it can easily navigate through the cloud and fetch the music in the smoothest possible way.

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