WWDC 2017: Apple unveils virtual reality, browser privacy features on Macs

HomePod is Apple's official foray into the smart speaker market.

HomePod, aided by Apple's Siri digital assistant, will be priced at $349 when it begins shipping in December in the United States, Australia and Britain, the tech giant announced at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

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

Amazon and Google's speakers work with their own services, but also with Spotify.

Apple's John Ternus speaks during an announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Monday, June 5, 2017. Siri assistant will be integrated into the USD349 speaker, and there will be a built-in "musicologist" which will make music recommendations tailored to individual taste.

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes", said Schiller.

Although Siri would likely be a centerpiece of a smart speaker from Apple, Moorhead said the device's design, colors and acoustics will also likely be focal points because the company has a long history of making elegantly designed products.

Apple has also brought Drag and Drop feature to the iPad Pro which is a nifty little feature that makes use of all the real estate of the tablet. WWDC runs through June 9. The speaker is similar to cheaper devices from Amazon and Google.

Siri is getting a new voice, and the Mac is getting a new name. Or you can ask it for the news, weather, traffic, sports scores, to text someone with messages and set reminders.

Amazon has dominated the category of connected speakers since 2014 when it introduced its first Echo, which responds to voice commands and allows users to order goods or rides and control connected appliances.

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released past year, were the first entrants in a promising market.

The free software update for mobile devices, iOS 11, is expected in September, when Apple typically releases new iPhones.

The next evolution of Apple's desktop operating system is called High Sierra.

High Sierra features will include being able to stop unexpected videos from starting to play automatically when landing on web pages and "intelligent tracking prevention" that will prevent ads from following people about the internet.

The company was expected to introduce iOS 11, the next version of the software that powers the iPhone and iPad.

Unlike those other smart speakers, Apple is positioning the HomePod primarily as a way to listen to and discover new songs and artists. This year virtual reality is a factor; the new iMacs will also support graphics for VR content creation. Apple's entry into the market could change that.

  • Arturo Norris