Apple Unveils an Amazon Echo Competitor

Posted June 06, 2017

The HomePod, Apple's smart speaker will not only be able to stream music, but will have Siri built in and be able to control smart home devices through HomeKit.

We got a chance to see the HomePod immediately after Apple's WWDC keynote in San Jose, but we weren't allowed to touch it. When the time ticks around, a blue light ring will appear on the Echo device and Alexa will remind you as commanded. Developers will keep an eye out for hints about new capabilities in the next iPhone, such as so-called augmented reality, in which digital information is overlaid on real-world images. It's both a smart speaker and powerful source of music.

Currently, Apple's Siri works with only six types of app: ride-hailing and sharing; messaging and calling; photo search; payments; fitness; and auto infotainment systems. While the updates are hitting USA devices today, Amazon says it will be updating Alexa in Germany and in the United Kingdom to include these new features as well, though the updates for those regions will be "in the coming weeks". In that way, it's like a very big AirPod.

The speaker is 7 inches tall, covered in "acoustic" mesh, with a 4-inch woofer. But Apple occasionally also uses the event to introduce new devices and services and upgrades to existing products.

But it's more than just a loud wireless speaker.

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.

Chief executive Tim Cook, referencing the company's iTunes service and iPod, said: "Just like portable music, we would like to reinvent home music".

Amazon's beefing up some basic features in Alexa, its voice-controlled assistant. While it's not as extensive as what Alexa or Google Home can offer, it looks like a fairly good start.

Apple also unveiled the high-end iMac Pro for power users, which features a whopping 18-core Xeon processor.

It'll also have bass management through real-time software modeling that ensures the speaker delivers the deepest and cleanest bass possible, with low distortion, according to Apple.

The research firm IDC says Apple and Xiaomi each has a worldwide market share of almost 15 percent in the first quarter. Say, you can tell Alexa to cancel the garlic bread one if you finish making it before the timer goes off or ask it how much longer you still have to wait to take your lasagna out of the oven.

The announcements follow complaints that Apple has let its Mac computers languish in favor of its better-selling products, namely the iPhone. If that doesn't happen before the speaker launches later this year, however, the two colors Apple has picked are at least subtle and non-offending. This is what is rumoured to be underpinning Apple's smart assistant product.

Amazon has a almost two-year head start with its popular Echo home speaker, which has thousands of skills and features using its Alexa virtual assistant.