Published: Tue, June 06, 2017
Industry | By Faith Ward

Apple aims to 'reinvent home music' with HomePod smart speaker

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).

Our homes might already be filled with the chatter of Amazon Echos and Google Homes, but guess who's just knocked on the door? Both speakers can respond to voice requests for the news, weather and tasks such as turning on the lights.

Apple is expected to unveil new features for its Apple Watch as its Worldwide Developers Conference kicks off on Monday.

Amazon's Echo commands 70.6 percent of the US market and Google Home has 23.8 percent, according to a recent eMarketer report.

While there's a chance Apple could reveal more colors for the HomePod between now and December, nothing was said to imply that.

An internet-connected speaker called HomePod is coming in December for about $350. The $349 price tag is a bit more expensive than comparably-sized internet-connected speakers, almost double the price of the Amazon Echo, and more than double the Google Home.

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released previous year, were the first entrants in a promising market.

More than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year, according the research firm eMarketer.

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

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The CEO Tim Cook announced the update at Apple's annual conference for software programmers on Monday.

Apple is late to the smart home assistant game, though. Most improvements will be under the hood, including an all-new file system, VR features and support for the new HEVC video standard.

On the plus side, the introduction of an Apple-designed speaker into what was an Alexa-controlled market could be one more catalyst for the voice-controlled industry.

Apple is trying to make augmented reality a reality with new tools for iPhones and iPads. 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.

The tech firm also updated its Apple Pay system to enable users to directly pay other people using a text message as part of its iOS 11 upgrade. So far, the service has limited payments to purchases of products and services from companies and other organizations.

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.

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

Safari, Apple's web browser, is getting new features aimed at online annoyances. It will allow users to automatically block auto-play videos by detecting videos that shouldn't be playing when you open a webpage to read an article, for example.

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