Apple pushes Siri to the fore at annual developer conference

HomePod will taking Amazon Echo and Google Home, which have been building momentum in the market for voice-controlled speakers capable of controlling smart appliances, fetching content from the internet and more.

The HomePod has six microphones so that it can be activated verbally using the "Hey Siri" voice command. However, rumours have indicated that at some point, Apple will be unveiling a dedicated hardware unit in the style of Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Apple says it's giving more emphasis to sound quality, not just smarts.

The HomePod will cost about $466 and ship out in December. The company clearly wants to take on Google Home and Amazon Echo, and it's aiming to be the best iPhone and iPad connected speaker around.

The speaker, while expected by some industry watchers, marked Apple's first new product announcement since the Apple Watch in September 2014. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year.

The cylindrical speaker, known as the "HomePod", resembles the Mac Pro at 7in tall and promises to "reinvent music in the home".

New iMacs unveiled Monday at Apple's annual conference for software programmers are getting better displays and graphics capabilities.

Apple is late to the smart home assistant game, though.

The thing is, Google already did the same thing, with the Tango mobile augmented reality system and services running in its cloud. Facebook, HTC and Sony have high-end VR systems, too. In one demo, Apple executive Craig Federighi pointed a camera at a table on stage and added a virtual coffee cup and a lamp on the real table.

The new software also contains a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" mode, which Apple says will help prevent iPhones distracting those behind the wheel, and a new "Files" app that resembles a traditional computer file system for viewing and organising documents. These devices will only keep the most recent messages in local storage. So far, the service has limited payments to purchases of products and services from companies and other organizations.

There were also a couple of updates to Apple's web browser, Safari, including a speed boost that makes it, according to Apple, the fastest ever desktop browser. It will not actually block ads, though. The iPad Pro now comes in an all-new 10.5-inch variation in addition to the original 12.9-inch size.

The company is also launching new models of both the iPad and the Mac computer. The device will start at $649 and start shipping next week. Apple has Siri baked into it, which explains why everyone was calling it the Apple Siri Speaker ahead of today's launch event.

The Siri face for the Apple Watch was the first step in that direction, blending users' calendar information with other useful details, like airline tickets they may have booked.

It also enhanced its workout app to, for instance, support high intensity interval training.

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.

  • Latoya Cobb