Apple pushes Siri to the fore at annual developer conference

James Martin  CNET
James Martin CNET

09 June, 2017

Apple has unveiled a smart speaker to rival the Amazon Echo and Google Home as the tech giant said it wanted to "reinvent home music". Apple introduced its new product called HomePod at WWDC 2017.

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.

"This is free-form. Siri doesn't need a specific list of commands". Apple is also rumored to be working on a "dark mode" for iOS, which would present a darker version of the iOS layout - a move that could conserve the iPhone's battery, if Apple switches to an OLED screen for its next generation of smartphones.

The five-day event, which takes place from June 5 to 9, brings together Apple app developers from around the world to meet and discuss with over 1,000 Apple engineers on the latest updates to Apple software for its iPhones, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV.

The Apple HomePod will be available in both white and space gray.

Apple also unveiled the high-end iMac Pro for power users at its annual conference for software programmers Monday. It would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.

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HomePod will compete with Amazon's Echo and Google Home for the smart speaker market, and will support Apple Music and Siri and will provide news, traffic updates and play music. 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.

And standing out is of critical importance to the company. Instead, it was all but a foregone conclusion that what the CEO was about to announce was the equivalent of putting Amazon's Alexa and Google Home on notice.

Augmented reality is a mixture of live images and virtual animations and objects placed over them.

Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing, said on stage that the product has been in the works for "years".

But for now, Apple is stuck hawking sound quality where many mainstream consumers can't tell the difference. Or if someone texts you about owing money, it will ask if you want to pay from your Apple Pay account. Concerns about sinking iPhone sales and its ability to recover - even with a successful launch of its next iPhone, which is expected to sell very well thanks to pent-up demand for a truly innovative iPhone.

Is it too late for Apple's speaker to be successful?

The HomePod is powered by Apple's A8 chip and will be available from December in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., which will be getting the initial batch of speakers in White and Space Grey at $349 (roughly Rs. 22,500).

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