Look out Alexa: Apple announces 'HomePod,' a smart home audio speaker

Apple's voice-controlled Siri assistant will be integrated into the $349 speaker, and will make music recommendations that pair with the company's Apple Music service, send text messages, check news and sports scores and control home gadgets like lightbulbs and thermostats.

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.

"We want to reinvent home music", Apple CEO Tim Cook said on stage at WWDC. You can now ask Siri, "How do you say "What are the most popular dishes in your restaurant" in Chinese?" and Siri will respond in Chinese, Federighi said.

Apple's enviable profits are one of the most unbelievable aspects of the company.

The speaker will compete directly with Amazon's Echo and Google Home for the lucrative smart speaker 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's WWDC keynote mostly focused on its four software operating systems: iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS. Cook is aiming to double services revenue, which also includes products like iCloud and Apple Music, to around US$50bil (RM212.85bil) by 2020.

The price is quite a jump from Google's $129 Home and Amazon's $180 full-sized Echo. But it's a lot cheaper than the iPhone, which starts at $649 and is now the main way people access Siri. SONOS will integrate Amazon's Alexa technology into its speakers at some point in 2017, but for now they can't do much more than simply play music.

"Beyond an overly exhaustive list of incremental software features, Apple's new products offered little in the way of meaningful incremental profit opportunities", Hargreaves said in a note to clients. Apple Pay also gets an update in the latest version of iOS, with the addition of person-to-person payments, and the App Store gets a refresh, with a new "Today" section for the latest apps and a separate games section.

The Siri watch face will change depending on time of day, automatically bringing up relevant information such as commute time, meeting reminders, and flight times. Apple revealed Monday that it now has 27 million Apple Music subscribers. For instance, Apple initially resisted enlarging the size of iPhone's screen despite strong sales for larger-display phones made by Samsung and other rivals. Developers are being given tools to place 3D images of objects in the iPhone camera's field of view.

Apple said it is also using "on-device learning" to enable Siri to take people's tastes into account.

Apple also upgraded most of its Mac computers, including a powerful new offering for professional users, showing renewed commitment to a product line that critics say it neglected amid lacklustre growth.

Besides the HomePod, Apple unveiled a collection of new and upgraded products, including a new computer, the $4,999 iMac Pro. There is talk of updates to the Mac and iPad series to be announced at the Conference. Shares fell 1% to 153.93 on Monday. While well received by many consumers, recent MacBook Pros have been criticised by some longtime Mac loyalists and creative professionals for not meeting some of their needs.

"Apple is mostly playing catch-up", Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, said in a report. They will be available in the coming week in a choice of three colours, starting at United States dollars 695 for the 10.5-inch model with 64 GB memory and USD 799 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

  • Joanne Flowers