WWDC 2017: Apple introduces HomePod, an Amazon Echo rival

HomePod is definitely bigger than Google Home or Amazon Echo.                  James Martin  CNET

Although Siri does support a narrow set of third party voice actions on iOS devices, it's unclear whether these will be accessible on HomePod.

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

It unveiled HomePod, a new 7-inch tall speaker for playing music, checking the news and controlling other connected devices in the home. Now, the company is introducing the HomePod, a smart speaker that is meant to be Apple's answer to Google Home and Amazon Echo.

And similar to Google and Amazon smart speakers, Apple said audio information is not being recorded or sent to the Apple's cloud until the "Hey Siri" voice command has been issued.

Talk of the hub as a rival for Amazon Echo and Google Home are inevitable and valid, but Apple maintains the key comparison should be in audio quality.

The speaker, while expected by some industry watchers, marked Apple's first new product announcement since the Apple Watch in September 2014.

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The new smart digital speaker won't hit shelves until December, just in time for Christmas wish lists.

There are also seven "beam-forming tweeters" - read as speakers - each with their own amplifier, running around the entire circumference of the HomePod. The speaker is powered by an A8 chip - the same chip found in the iPhone 6 - and lets the device learn its position in a room and optimise itself to deliver an immersive music listening experience, according to Apple. Six months is a lifetime in the world of devices, so will the HomePod actually look the same when it's finally available to buy later this year?

Very much a device for consumer use, the HomePod is potentially an interesting prospect for software and online service developers, who are likely to be presented with another smart home device on which they could create apps for or more likely integrate their existing apps with.

It is high time that Apple wakes up to a new era of technology disruption and make real use of its voice assistance technology Siri, considering it was amongst the first voice assistants to hit the market, but never made it big.

But Apple is late to the game on VR.

Apple marketing boss Phil Schiller said Apple wanted to combine good speakers with smart speakers you can talk to, referencing Sonos and Amazon Alexa. This is a new Apple product that was announced today and it is a smartspeaker. Great! Hook up your account to the Echo, then simply ask Alexa - Amazon's equivalent of Siri - to play whatever you want.

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