New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Posted June 07, 2017

The pricing of Apple's device was shared at the conference in comparison to both smart home speakers as well as premium audio speakers. These giants are battling over still-emerging fields that are expected to turn into technological gold mines, much the way personal computers and smartphones became moneymaking machines in previous decades.

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released previous year, were the first entrants in a promising market.

Yet Monday's announcement, rather than being routine, was the result of a negotiation stretching back at least to 2015 when Amazon stopped selling Apple TVs on its retail site.

Siri is getting a new voice, and the Mac is getting a new name.

Apple "can't afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others", said Geoff Blaber, research analyst at CCS Insight. But Apple was careful to frame it as a product focused on music first - potentially differentiating it from the Echo and Home.

A survey released last month by research firm eMarketer found Echo speakers held 70.6 percent of the U.S. market, compared with 23.8 percent for Google Home and 5.6 percent for others including Lenovo, LG, Harmon Kardon and Mattel.

Apple hopes to do the same with the release of the HomePod, Apple's second new device introduced under Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

More than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year, according the research firm eMarketer.

It could be one reason Apple is playing up the musical aspect of the Homepod more than its smart home features. That's especially important because people are starting to access information, entertainment and search in a more "pervasive" way that's less dependent on smartphones, he said. In that way, Apple is sticking to its normal playbook and focusing on consumers willing to shell out more cash - a strategy that can mean fewer sales but generally leads to greater profits. Apple said all communications are encrypted. Apple wowed developers with a new platform to make augmented reality apps, as well. These new iMacs also benefit from faster storage and thunder bolt port.

The latest version of Apple's Safari browser will be able to stop automatically playing videos as well as online trackers used for advertisers. It will not block the ads themselves, though.

The new iPad Pro 10.5 occupies nearly the same footprint (and also weighs the same) as the last years iPad Pro 9.7, but aggressively cutbacks on bezels to accommodate a larger screen.

Apple is trying to make augmented reality a reality with new tools for iPhones and iPads. So far, the service has limited payments to purchases of products and services from companies and other organizations. The new camera app will use the new HEVC format compression for captured videos and pictures to offer the same image quality at nearly half the size on the user's device.