Apple Joins Smart-Speaker Race With Music-Focused 'HomePod'

But what's so special about the speaker that Apple is naturally claiming will "reinvent home music"? 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).

Apple HomePod is the smart speaker that wants to be at the center of your home audio experience, and that's great news for iPhone and iPad users. Apple's been lagging behind in terms of professional-quality hardware in recent years, with its last high-performance desktop model, the MacPro, landing with a thud back in 2013. The HomePod is created to work along with Apple Music, so it essentially requires one to have a subscription to music streaming service, which will give access to over 40 million songs. The speaker is similar to cheaper devices from Amazon and Google. Through six microphones fitted around the edges of the device, users are able to not only control music through voice commands, but also use Siri to access services like news, weather, translation apps, and reminders. Besides playing music, Apple's Siri digital assistant will also respond to requests for information and other help around the house.

The HomePod's $US349 retail price translates directly into $466 over here, but expect a slight price premium once you figure in GST and import costs and all the other extra fees we normally pay in Australia. It will be priced at $349 in the United States, with local pricing announced later in the year. Apple said all communications are encrypted.

The New York Times notes that the biggest casualty of Apple entering the voice-enabled home speaker realm may end up being Sonos, whose app-controlled, internet-enabled stereo devices remain popular in-home speaker options.

The new features will come in a software update expected in a few months.

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The HomePod speaker is photographed in a showroom during an announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Monday in San Jose, California.

Although Apple has not confirmed whether it's going to launch a speaker, industry analysts think WWDC could be where the company will announce its Echo-style, Siri-powered speaker, which will be used to announce new music support for Siri.

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

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the Homepod. Software updates are also expected for Apple's smartwatch and TV box for streaming online video. It will also offer "virtual surround sound" technology. The manufacturing duties have apparently been handled by the same company that makes the iPhone 7's AirPods, with the devices being tested by Apple employees in secret.

Apple also unveiled new Macs, addressing complaints that Apple has let its Mac lineup languish in favor of its better-selling products, namely the iPhone.

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