WWDC: Apple Enters Internet of Things Market with HomePod

Apple CEO Tim Cook will give the keynote speech at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference where analysts believe the company will reveal AI-driven technology

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.

But Apple is billing it as something a little more: a hybrid of a smart speaker, like the Echo, and a wireless home speaker system, like the $300 Sonos Play:3. It would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.

The device stands 7 inches tall and is lined with a mesh fabric similar to the base of the Google Home or exterior of an Amazon Tap.

Aimed at high-end design professionals rather than the home market, the iMac Pro is to begin shipping in December with a starting price of $4,999.

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

HomePod users may initially be constrained by Siri's lack of capabilities as compared to Alexa, which also boasts the ability to order millions of Amazon products as well as food from restaurants like Domino's. If the Google Home looks like an air freshener, the HomePod looks a bit like a ball of yarn. Both speakers can respond to voice requests for the news, weather and tasks such as turning on the lights.

It starts shipping later this year in the US, United Kingdom and Australia.

Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller speaks during the opening keynote address the 2017 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center on June 5, 2017 in San Jose, California. Google delivered an Android Auto feature for smartphones a year ago. Microsoft also has announced its own speaker with Samsung's Harman business; it will use Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant.




It wouldn't be the first time that Apple hopped on the bandwagon of a technology product popularized by a competitor.

For instance, Apple's large-size iPhones are now popular, after Apple initially resisted them despite strong sales for larger-display phones made by Samsung and other rivals.

Apple hopes to do to home speakers what the iPod did to music via the HomePod, a speaker that has "incredible acoustic properties" per the Apple impresarios who debuted it at today's WWDC. Although Apple Watch has emerged as the leader among smartwatches, it hasn't become a smash hit like the iPhone.

The free software update for mobile devices, iOS 11, is expected in September when Apple typically releases new iPhones.

Apple also may introduce its next Mac computer, along with the next operating system powering the machine.

There's also an update to WatchOS with a new Siri interface and a new Music app for the Apple Watch, and laptops are getting updates, with a new faster 21.5-inch MacBook Air with 4K high resolution that will start at around $1,300, and a new 13-inch MacBook Pro that starts at $1,300.

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