Apple takes on Amazon with voice-activated speaker


Apple was expected to announce a smart speaker, a market that Amazon - with its sleeper hit, the Echo - and the later Google Home, powered by Assistant - now dominate, given them an integral place in users' lives. Apple says that the microphones are good enough to hear commands from far away, even with the music at full volume. And fortunately for Google and Amazon, Apple's Siri is widely seen as lagging the competition in both its quality and capabilities. Alongside the seven speaker array, the Apple HomePod boasts of a 4 inch upward facing woofer. It features spatial awareness which enables it to sense its surroundings and adjust the audio automatically. They can also offer multi-room audio using Apple's new AirPlay 2. Hoping it's not too late to the crowded voice-controlled speaker party, Apple seems to be making a big bet on its own technology and software with the HomePod.

Apple also unveiled a key content deal when Chief Executive Tim Cook said that Amazon Prime Video, long absent from the Apple TV product, would come to Apple devices such as the TV, iPhones and iPad later this year.

From a business perspective for Apple, this another opportunity to keep users within its closed network of products.

"As the iPhone reaches a point of near saturation in mature markets and replacement rates continue to slow, Apple must find new ways to lock in users". It unveiled the Apple Watch in September 2014."Though Apple appears to be playing catch up with Amazon and Google, the primary casualty here may be Sonos". "With over 165 million subscriptions to Apple services and quarterly revenue of $7 billion, this is an important priority for growth".

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

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One announcement generating a lot of buzz is Apple's new HomePod.

Apple said the same chip used in the iPhone will power the speaker. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro size will remain, but will be refreshed with the new technology upgrades.

Well, if you think this is the first time Apple has launched the speaker, you couldn't be more wrong.

Supported features include news, unit conversion, messages, reminders, podcast playback, setting alarms and timers, translation, stock info, general knowledge, weather, traffic info, sports scores, and it also works as a HomeKit bridge.

It will ship in December at a $349 suggested retail. Siri also moonlights on the HomePod as a "musicologist".