Apple HomePod sets sights on Amazon Alexa, Google Home

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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 smart speaker works by talking to an updated Siri that better understands music-related requests, Apple said during its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California.

The speaker, in White and Space Gray, is being worked on for December shipping times in the US, UK and Australia for $349 or local equivalents. Siri updates the watch face with new information through the day - think calendar entries, flight information, or smart home controls - using "machine learning to adjust automatically based on your routine" according to Apple's vice-president of technology Kevin Lynch.

■ As far as hardware is concerned, rumours are centered on the introduction of a new "Siri speaker" that would bring Apple's digital assistant on a level playing field with devices such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home. Not surprisingly, there's integration with the Apple Music online subscription. "Apple today was much more focused on talking about it".

Apple is officially jumping into the home speaker market.

There's plenty of news to get into, so let's go ahead and dive right in. Or make that new voices, with a male version of Siri is getting a refresh, too. The smartwatch promises to learn about your routines to figure out what information to display. The application has been reorganised to include a persistent sidebar that will likely make it easier to sort through your photos. The features are part of the Mac software update this fall, to be called High Sierra.

Amazon just unveiled a version of Echo with a camera, touch-screen display and video-calling capabilities.

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On paper, Apple's choice to present the HomePod a Sonos-esque high-end audio speaker that's powered by Siri compared to a Siri-powered home assistant is deliberate and a concession.

Amazon has a almost two-year head start with its popular Echo home speaker, which has thousands of skills and features using its Alexa virtual assistant. It "reinvents home music" - but it doesn't reinvent the home assistant. Augmented reality is the blending of the physical and virtual worlds. Apple says that makes the Mac a great platform for developing virtual-reality experiences.

With its new iOS 11 operating system for the iPhone, Apple has introduced a system for discouraging people from sending messages while driving. But there have been other market categories where Apple hasn't been first or best. It's compatible with an iPhone 5S device (or newer model) running iOS11.

Inside you'll find Apple's A8 processor, which the company claims is "the biggest brain inside of a speaker".

The new iMacs start at about $1,300. For example the high refresh rate works well with using the new iPads for handwriting using the Apple Pencil, while slower rates save power while doing relatively static tasks such as reading ebooks. Apple also built auto-play video blocking directly in the browser to speed up performance.

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

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