Apple's HomePod Siri speaker takes on Google, Sonos

Whenever Siri is engaged, the HomePod will display the Siri waveform on the top of the speaker, the same location where the HomePod's touch-sensitive controls are.

The HomePod is described as less than 7in tall, but is packed with seven speakers and a 4in sub-woofer.

Apple's music-first sales pitch may explain why Apple is pricing this device much higher than comparable home-assistant devices from Google and Amazon, which are not advertised as high-fidelity music devices.

The HomePod will be priced at $349, more expensive than Amazon's $180 Echo or $50 Dot and Google's $129 Home. The device is not portable and requires an AC connection, but that puts the HomePod on a par with existing smart speakers. Apple said that makes the Mac a great platform for developing virtual-reality "experiences", although the company didn't announce any consumer VR products. And earlier this year, Apple was said to be developing its own chips to handle tasks such as graphics processing and artificial intelligence - the latter, underpinning technologies such as speech and facial recognition.

What's interesting about Apple's approach here is that the company has positioned HomePod as a music device first and foremost, a big contrast to the approach of Google which touted its Home speaker as a day-to-day assistant for many aspects of your life.

The gadget is also rumoured to have controls on its surface, which is a rather unusual move for Apple. HomePod will act as a funnel towards more than Apple Music, but other e-commerce options as well.

Although Apple has not confirmed whether it's going to launch a speaker, industry analysts think WWDC could be where the company will announce its Echo-style, Siri-powered speaker, which will be used to announce new music support for Siri.

"There is so much momentum building around these speakers that it would be hard for Apple not to come out with one", said industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy. Apple also laid some groundwork for augmented reality, the projection of digital features onto real-world surroundings, by giving app developers tools for incorporating AR into their products.

Apple really wants to hold on to its professional users. The company didn't reveal many details about how the HomePod might work with third-party apps, a major selling point for the Echo and Home.

Inside the mesh-wrapped 18cm cylinder is Apple's A8 processor - the same silicon powerplant as the iPhone 6 series - atop an array of speakers and microphones. It's essentially a voice-operated digital assistant, but thanks to machine learning algorithms, it's created to get smarter the more you use it, adapting to your vocabulary, speech patterns, and usage habits.

The new features will come in a software update expected in a few months. The store's 500 million weekly users will see new tabs highlighting curated collections and article-like stories made by Apple, not just developers.

Then there's the new iPad Pro.

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