Apple aims to 'reinvent home music' with HomePod smart speaker

Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has stressed the importance of Apple's services business, predicting it will double in size by 2021.

WWDC is Apple's annual pitch to software engineers to continue building programs for the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) on Monday introduced the HomePod, a voice-controlled speaker that can make music suggestions and adjust home temperatures, taking aim at Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN.O) Alexa feature and Echo devices.

The trend-setting company also is putting new twists on existing products as it delves deeper into virtual reality and a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning.

"One of the features touted by the HomePod is that it's going to have a lot better audio qualities than any of the other speakers out there", Tom's Guide reviews editor Mike Prospero said.

Since the launch of Amazon's Echo a year ago and Google Home in March, both of which have been popular with consumers, Apple had been widely expected to enter the market. The pricing of Apple's device was shared at the conference in comparison to both smart home speakers as well as premium audio speakers.

Apple Music now has 27 million paying subscribers, up from 20 million the last time the tech giant did some subscriber maths in public last December.

As for HomePod, Apple says that while the speaker's always listening, nothing will be sent to Apple's servers until you say, "Hey, Siri". Apple said HomePod can separate vocals and other parts of the music via Apple Music, but that more recent recordings will perform the separation better.

The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the US, United Kingdom and Australia.

This state of affairs would have seemed impossible in late 2014, when the digital shopping company first introduced a home speaker with a voice-activated digital helper built in. Spending on smart home related hardware, services and installation fees will reach US$155 billion by 2022, up from nearly US$90 billion this year, with devices accounting for about half of that, the consulting firm also estimates.

That leaves Apple. Although it was the first smartphone maker to come out with a digital assistant when Siri debuted in 2011, it hasn't had a stand-alone assistant.

Apple says its Safari browser on the Mac will try to guard your privacy by identifying and blocking data files that track you as you move from website to website.

Apple Watch has emerged as the market leader for smartwatches - but it has competition after including basic fitness trackers in the count.

The Cupertino, California-based company said Siri, which also competes with Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google Assistant, will now work across devices. That's especially important because people are starting to access information, entertainment and search in a more "pervasive" way that's less dependent on smartphones, he said.

HomePod is designed for voice control with an array of six microphones, so users can interact with it from across the room, even while loud music is playing. "If Apple does not launch a "skills store", that would be a mistake".

Apple had plenty of other announcements. The idea is to get outside software programmers geared up to write apps for Apple products.

"The fact that Apple is claiming to marry really great and smart audio with a smart assistant and cloud music service makes this device unique in the market". It will block videos that start playing automatically, for instance, and can also prevent ads from following and profiling users.

  • Arturo Norris