Apple unveils HomePod, a smart speaker with Siri inside

Posted June 08, 2017

Apple has unveiled a wireless speaker, HomePod, at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2017 in the US.

Post the keynote speech, CEO Tim Cook sat down with Bloomberg TV for a chat session, only to reveal that Cupertino has been co-operating with the U.K government, handing over metadata, following the 3 consecutive terror attacks in the last three months.

The new MacBook now features up to 50 percent faster SSDs and supports up to twice the memory, the 15-inch MacBook Pro now comes standard with more powerful discrete graphics, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro adds a new US$1,299 configuration. Siri will be voice activated to respond to requests for information and other help around the house.

The speaker, while expected by some industry watchers, marked Apple's first new product announcement since the Apple Watch in September 2014. It contains Apple's A8 chip, launched in 2014. Just by uttering, "Hey Siri, I like this song", HomePod and Apple Music become the "musicologist", recognising preferences from hundreds of genres and moods, across various playlists, and shares them across devices.

"For us it's not about being first", Cook said in the interview. "And so we don't let that impatience result in shipping something that's just not great".

Apple also said it was making its virtual assistant Siri more aware of context, enabling it to recommend and remind users more accurately based on how they use their device. "The focus on music is smart and Apple can leverage Apple Music to compete with Google and Amazon", he said.

Siri also has a new home: inside Apple's brand new audio speaker, HomePod. Siri now uses machine learning "on-device" to suggest things like calendar entries and responses to messages.

The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia. You cannot only use the device to turn on the lights but also the temperature of your air conditioning system and even set an alarm clock to wake you up. Shipments of intelligent home speakers surged almost 600% year-over-year to 4.2 million units in the fourth quarter, with Amazon taking about 88% share and Google 10%, according to consultant Strategy Analytics. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops. So the question is whether you want one-speaker simplicity, or a more piecemeal, versatile setup.

More than two years after negotiations begun, Apple TV has signed a deal to bring Amazon Prime Video to its screens. Federighi highlighted stories about Iceland after a search in Safari for holidays to the island. There has been little detail on how the terrorists communicated with one another to plan the attacks, but Cook said that he believes Apple provided valuable information to the investigations.