Apple Finally Unveiled its Amazon Echo Rival

Apple's John Ternus speaks during an announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose Calif. Monday

Apple's John Ternus speaks during an announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose Calif. Monday

Mac models were also boosted to work with virtual reality gear, a move by Apple into technology that Facebook has embraced with its Oculus unit.

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.

Apple's new speaker is called HomePod (not to be confused with the third-party HomePod "wireless stereo" in-home streaming device a third-party company tried selling back in 2004), and will ship in December of this year.

If Spotify is your preferred music service for example, you can't use voice commands. They include a new visual interface for Siri queries, the option of a male voice, and more.

An iPad Pro sized at 10.5-inches, four new MacBooks and three iMacs were among the announcements at the event, which traditionally focuses on annual software releases for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. The HomePod is powered by Apple's A8 chip and will be available from December in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the USA, which will be getting the initial batch of speakers in White and Space Grey at $349 (roughly Rs. 22,500). It wakes to "Hey, Siri" and will attempt to answer basic questions and control other devices in addition to playing tunes via Apple Music. The speaker will also maintain an emphasis on privacy by only sending voice data to the cloud in response to specific requests initiated with "Hey Siri", which the speaker will listen for with local voice recognition. "It definitely puts a dent into Google Home".

Apple concluded its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote on Monday with a sneak peek of an all-new product: The HomePod. In the future, both AirPods and HomePod will benefit from additional integrations with Siri - but nobody buys AirPods, a MacBook or an iPhone for Siri. Apple also said the HomePod encrypts all your communication. So even though Apple TV will soon deliver Amazon content, it can't show it the way other devices can.

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

Apple's Siri Speaker is reportedly in the works
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.

Amazon just unveiled a version of Echo with a camera, touch-screen display and video-calling capabilities. Now I have zero problems saying that the HomePod sounds way better than an Echo, but it's still not a direct comparison. Amazon also has the Echo Dot, a budget version of the Echo that starts at $49.99. Google delivered an Android Auto feature for smartphones previous year.

Some industry insiders, however, note that Apple will be under more pressure to improve the computing smarts of its Siri software in the face of offerings from rivals Google and Amazon.

This has been one major area in consumer electronics lacking Apple's footprint.

That leaves Apple. Although it was the first smartphone maker to come out with a digital assistant when Siri debuted in 2011, it hasn't had a stand-alone assistant.

Apple is going product first and platform second for a reason.

He claimed this year's WWDC is the largest of the kind for the technology company. And it knows that, for all its sci-fi promise, the smart speaker today is good mostly for one thing: playing audio on command.

The lack of a breakthrough device has periodically raised concerns that Apple has become too dependent on the iPhone and supported the theory that the company lost its knack for innovation when its co-founder Steve Jobs died of cancer in 2011.

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