Apple's Siri Speaker is reportedly in the works

Apple's last speaker product, Apple Hi-Fi, which launched in 2006.Flickr/teezehApple has started manufacturing its long-rumored smart speaker, and it could start shipping the gadget later this year, according to a published report.

Apple Inc. is already in your pocket, on your desk and underneath your television.

As expected, the speaker would act as a hub for HomeKit, but it would also serve the additional objective of tying customers more tightly into the Apple ecosystem, and providing a competitive option to the Amazon Echo and Google Home that supports services such as Apple Music, thereby stemming a potential tide of users who might defect to rival services such as Spotify, Amazon Prime, or Google Play after buying a competing smart speaker.

Apple's Siri Speaker (an unofficial name) would have surround sound, integration with Apple devices, and no touch screen. Soon, a device embossed with "Designed by Apple in California" may be on your nightstand or kitchen counter as well.

Apple didn't respond to request for comment.

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It would also help make Apple's HomeKit smart home software more useful, since users now have to coordinate their devices with an AppleTV or an iPad.

The smart speaker space is heating up, with Amazon and Google already on the market and Essential coming soon.

Has the delay in entering the market allowed Apple to get this release just right? Planned Mac updates will include refreshed versions of the MacBook and MacBook Pro with faster Intel Corp. processors, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month.

The company is also looking to tailor the audio to users' living environments by adding sensors to measure room accoustics, according to today's piece. Along with generating virtual surround sound, the speakers being tested are louder and reproduce sound more crisply than rival offerings, the people said. That suggests Apple Music will also play a key role alongside the product's Siri and HomeKit features.

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