Apple debuts HomePod speaker to bring Siri into the living room

American Multinational Technology Company, Apple announces HomePod speakers to its competitors, mainly consist of the Amazon's Echo and Google's Home.

REUTERS/Stephen LamPhotographers take a close look at the Apple HomePod which the company unveiled at the WWDC 2017 in California. The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the United States, UK and Australia.

Amazon sells Echo devices for $179, and smaller "Dot" versions for $50.

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. At its annual developer conference, Apple exposed new iPads, which concentrate on the hardware rather than software. If you already have an iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, HomePod just makes sense.

"It's clearly about the hardware but also making Siri more obvious to consumers so you can see where she's getting smarter", said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies. Here's what you should know if you want to get your hands on Apple's new smart speaker system.

Amazon introduced the Echo home speaker three years ago, while Google followed with the Home device in 2016.

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. It also needs to be fun to use, Apple said. Cook is aiming to double services revenue, which also includes products like iCloud and Apple Music, to around $50 billion by 2020.

It is the first new device Apple has announced in nearly three years.

The HomePod is equipped with the virtual assistant Siri and can answer basic questions ("Who is playing drums on this song?" or "What's the weather forecast?") and control other smart home devices.

Once set up, Home Pod will be able to control lights, alarms, and other products around the home.

Amazon's smart speakers-which are equipped with the virtual assistant Alexa and can play music, deliver the news, and even order an Uber with voice commands-were huge hits with shoppers during the winter holidays of 2016.

For instance, if a contact sends you a request for money, Siri will immediately surface the new Apple Pay feature in your messages which allows you to make person-to-person payments, a challenge to PayPal Holdings Inc.'s similar Venmo system. It will also be possible to exchange data between gym equipment and the watch. Apple's entry into the market could change that.

The free software update for mobile devices, iOS 11, is expected in September, when Apple typically releases new iPhones. Yet it isn't as bulky as the 12.9-inch model.

The new iPad Pro also comes with a better camera - the same one found in the iPhone 7 - along with more storage, a better display and faster refreshing of moving images. But it's a lot cheaper than the iPhone, which starts at US$649 (RM2,762) and is now the main way people access Siri.

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