Apple 'HomePod' speaker to take on Amazon, Google

Thomson Reuters

With HomePod, only after "Hey Siri" is recognized locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier.As CNet points out, this also means that Apple's HomeKit software now has its own standalone device, meaning that it could attract Android users and others who previously did not want to use Siri through an iPhone or iPad.

For years now Apple has built and distributed some of the world's most popular digital media players. The HomePod will ship in December and is priced at $349.

It is created to work with the Apple Music subscription service and can produce rich sound while tapping into the artificial intelligence power of Siri. The firm says Homepod delivers "amazing sound, automatic room sensing, and the vast Apple Music library, HomePod takes the speaker to a whole new level".

Apple vice president Phil Schiller said the company's Siri team tuned the virtual assistant as a "musicologist" that learns the tastes of listeners and gets songs from the Internet cloud.

Tech reviewers, analysts, and Apple fans have started falling heads over heels in love with the HomePod. It's clear Apple has Sonos, probably moreso than Amazon or Google, in its crosshairs. While Amazon Echo has the first mover's advantage and is priced much lower compared to Apple's Home Pod ($180 vs $349), consumers looking for advanced features and better sound quality may prefer the latter.

Apple Is Finally Bringing An Upgraded Siri Home: One of the messages from Apple this week is Siri has finally grown up.

The introduction of a high-quality smart speaker from Apple puts some serious pressure on Sonos, an early leader in the connected speaker market. Sadly, HomePod doesn't appear to be much of a virtual assistant or a super speaker. Along with this the company also announced an update to the iOS operating system as well as also provide an update for the Mac computers and Apple Watch.

HomePod combined elements of Echo and Sonos smart speakers, known for rich sound quality, according to Reticle Research principal analyst Ross Rubin. Both Amazon's Alexa and Google Home's Google Assistant will be able to power a swath of compatible home automation products and are directly linked to big home automation companies like Nest, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings and WeMo.

Ok, so while it's a bit of a risky strategy, it's probably the right one for Apple. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year. While I blather at my Android smartphones and tablet all the time nowadays, and my wife and I both regularly chat at the various Amazon Echos scattered around our house, she's pretty much thrown in the towel on Siri both on her iPhone 5S and iPad 3 (in favor, ironically, of both the Google Search and Maps apps for iOS).

Apple HomePod quite expensive than the other two - and that too by a fair margin.

For instance, in the voice-enabled speakers market: Amazon's Echo and Echo Dot retails for $179.99 and $49.99 a piece and Google Home retails for $129.99.

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