Apple debuts HomePod speaker to bring Siri into the living room

Apple HomePodMore

Apple replaced record collections with the iPod and earned front pocket real estate with the iPhone.

The Amazon Echo and Google Home are both smart assistants that happen to play music, but the HomePod's main calling is clearly to be the king of voice-controlled music.

Using the HomePod is like using Siri, without the need to tap any buttons.

The HomePod speaker stands just under seven inches (18 cm) tall and is covered in fabric mesh that will come in white or gray.

The HomePod will be priced at $349, more expensive than Amazon's $180 Echo or $50 Dot and Google's $129 Home. (Many reviewers have suggested that the current incarnation of Apple's assistant already trails competitors in key respects.) "This is the start of the AI wars", he said. Amazon's AMZN Echo and Alphabet's GOOGL Google Home are little speaker-like home automation devices that can do everything from streaming music to dimming lights or adjusting the heat on the compatible thermostat.

"Voice is the next frontier for search and discovery, and there are lots of opportunities to leverage voice command within the home", said Michael Levine, vice president of marketing at Photon, a firm that creates voice-based digital experiences. This has resulted in Echo and Google Home dominating the space.

Apple's annual conference for app developers begins Monday in San Jose, California.

The moves announced Monday escalate Apple's technological battle of wits with Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. Apple said the same chip used in the iPhone will power the speaker. The new Echo Show goes on sale on June 28 for $230. Spending on smart home related hardware, services and installation fees will reach US$155 billion by 2022, up from nearly US$90 billion this year, with devices accounting for about half of that, the consulting firm also estimates.

Siri was the first digital voice assistant to be ever installed on a smartphone. For Apple, having one would further broaden the role that its software, services and gadgets play in people's lives.

Apple is also bringing the ability to send money to friends or other people through its payment service, Apple Pay.

HomePod is Apple's first major new hardware product since the Apple Watch's release in 2015, and it comes at an important time for the company. The lack of a recent 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.

Apple is expected to announce iOS 11.

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