Apple unveils 'HomePod' speaker, first new product in years

Cook and other Apple executives showed off several additional new Siri functions, highlighting how the company has been working to catch up with similar offerings from Alphabet Inc and Inc.

The speaker, while expected by some industry watchers, marked Apple's first new product announcement since the Apple Watch in September 2014.

HomePod, announced on Monday, will stream songs from Apple Music but also use smart assistant Siri to respond to voice commands.

Although Siri would likely be a centerpiece of a smart speaker from Apple, Moorhead said the device's design, colors and acoustics will also likely be focal points because the company has a long history of making elegantly designed products.

If Apple unveils a rival to internet-connected speakers from Amazon and Google, it wouldn't be the first time that Apple hops on the bandwagon of a technology product popularized by a competitor. If you buy an Alexa-enabled appliance, you'll also be able to ask it to call you an Uber or play trivia games with you.

Notably, the new software includes new artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality features.

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

Improvements to the AirPlay feature for sharing audio from iOS devices, which one-ups Google's invasion of home audio speakers through the Chromecast Audio dongle.

"The fact that Apple is claiming to marry really great and smart audio with a smart assistant and cloud music service makes this device unique in the market". The Google Home runs around $130, the Amazon Echo at $180 and the HomePod makes its debut at $349. Amazon dominated shipments in the three months through December, selling 88% of the 4.2 million smart speakers sold globally in that period. Google and Amazon have been saturating the market for a while now and figuring out the whole home assistant niche. In addition, a new iMac Pro and a 10.5-inch iPad Pro are being announced.

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the latest operating system for Mac computers.

High Sierra's new Safari features Autoplay Blocking to prevent those irritating online video advertisements playing and Intelligent Tracking Prevention. Siri will also be able to create a shared Up Next queue with everyone in the home.

The free software update for mobile devices, iOS 11, is expected in September when Apple typically releases new iPhones.

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