Apple kicks off event with virtual reality, browser privacy

Apple says its looking to "reinvent" the way we listen to music in the home.

At $349, it will be more expensive than Google Home ($109) and Amazon Echo ($179) but cheaper than the Sonos Play 5 ($499).

Apple's Kevin Lynch speaks about the Apple Watch announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Monday, June 5, 2017.

The company also rolled out tools for developers to create augmented reality applications for iPhones and iPads.

Since the launch of Amazon's Echo past year and Google Home in March, both of which have been popular with consumers, Apple had been widely expected to enter the market.

Tapping Apple's (AAPL) Siri digital assistant, such a speaker is expected to serve as a butler as well as an outlet for listening to music.

Analysts said Apple is playing to its strength in the music industry by focusing on sound quality and its catalogue of songs.

The built-in "musicologist" works with Apple Music by drawing in music from the service and it remembers your playlists and your favourite artists. And it would mark an effort by Apple to catch up with Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG).

The HomePod will launch in Australia in December, although a price is yet to be announced. Additionally, Siri will be able to chime in by answering follow-up questions, and offer multiple results to queries.

"We expect Apple's first home AI product will have excellent acoustics performance (one woofer + seven tweeters) and computing power (similar to iPhone 6/6S AP)".

The Cupertino, California-based company said Siri, which also competes with Alphabet Inc's Google Assistant, will now work across devices.

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.

A survey released last month by research firm eMarketer found Echo speakers held 70.6 percent of the U.S. market, compared with 23.8 percent for Google Home.

Meanwhile the 12-inch Macbook has faster hard drives and now supports up to 16GB of memory, while the 13-inch Pro has a new entry-level model that comes in at $1899. Apple said that makes the Mac a great platform for developing virtual-reality "experiences", although the company didn't announce any consumer VR products.

A new Siri interface on the Apple Watch will also blend users' calendar information with other useful details, like airline tickets they may have booked, the company said.

The technology, a feature of the wildly successfully smartphone game Pokemon Go, overlays digital information on real-world images and is seen as an area in which the keenly awaited 10th-anniversary iPhone can stand out from competitors. Hints about the iPhone 8's capability are also likely.

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.

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

  • Carolyn Briggs