Apple unveils HomePod speaker, iMac upgrades

But Apple occasionally also uses the event to introduce new devices and services and upgrades to existing products. A lot of that hardware and software looked great ... but some of it was also overdue, perhaps reminding investors Apple is behind rivals in a couple of key areas.

Apple's announcement of AirPlay 2.0 was something it breezed through during Monday's WWDC keynote. These giants are battling over still-emerging fields that are expected to turn into technological gold mines, much the way personal computers and smartphones became moneymaking machines in previous decades.

Siri can do those things, too, but Apple's pitch for Siri-powered HomePod is instead focused heavily on music - the company appears to bank on consumers paying for smart speakers that deliver high-quality audio sound as a sort of gateway into the world of smart home assistants.

"HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a handsome speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior VP of worldwide marketing.

Apple vice president Phil Schiller said the company's Siri team had tuned the assistant into a "musicologist" that learns the tastes of listeners and gets songs from the internet cloud.

"It will reinvent home audio", said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The seven-inch speaker will cost $349 but won't be available until December. Google Home followed in October and Microsoft's assistant, Cortana, is also finding a home in home speakers. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year.

The Apple Watch, which launched in 2015, and AirPods, the wireless headphones introduced last September, were the other two product segments. Although Apple is late to the game, CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber says the new tools come "as the technology hits an inflection point".

Apple's entry into the market could change this.

Apple has confirmed it will release a smart speaker called HomePod, so you can chat to Siri all the time and not just on your phone. The Sonos Play 3, however, could be considered a serious competitor. New MacBook Pros start at $1,299; the iMac Pro starts at $4,999; Apple says they both will ship in December. Apple also said the HomePod encrypts all your communication. Reading between the lines, there may be a slight admission here that HomePod might not be the smartest speaker on the block, but it will certainly sound the best.

The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro is slightly bigger than the existing 9.7-inch iPad Pro and has a new high resolution screen that makes it easier to scroll and draw. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

Several Apple HomeKit accessories work with Siri.

Apple also used its annual developer meeting in San Jose, California - its largest ever with some 5,000 people attending - to offer hints about so-called augmented reality technology.

Apple is also bringing the ability to send money to friends or other people through its payment service, Apple Pay.

  • Zachary Reyes