Apple debuts 'HomePod' smart speaker


Which makes you wonder if your conversations are staying at home.

When Apple executive Phil Schiller first announced the HomePod on stage at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), he stood in front of images of Amazon Echo and Sonos and said, "None of the other companies have quite nailed it".

According to representatives at the keynote address, current smart speakers concentrate so hard on being smart. There's no doubt Alexa is a very capable assistant with a lot of strings to its bow - and voice recognition has evolved to be very good - but the assistants from Apple and Google feel more rounded, thanks to their being in more places. Google followed in 2016 with Google Home, and Microsoft is now working with Harman Kardon on the Invoke smart speaker, which uses voice-assistant Cortana.

Recorded audio is already a topic of debate.

However, the Amazon (amzn) Echo costs $180.

"When people are starting to spend ... hundreds of dollar per speaker, I think generally they're going to want choice", Limp said in the interview. Google and Apple have an entire library of features that the Echo lacks but, at the end of the day, Amazon Echo does come with Prime music and Spotify.

HomePod served as an entrance for Apple in the world of smart home speakers. The Google Home has decent integration with Chromecast devices for putting Netflix or YouTube up on the big screen, while the HomePod is expected to play nicely with HomeKit.

Apple was the first major smartphone maker to focus on making a smart assistant an integral part of its phones when Siri debuted on the iPhone 4s.

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If customers are looking for smart home control, HomePod doesn't jump out at me as a top choice, unless users are already invested in the Apple ecosystem (more on this later). In fact, police recently tried to get an Echo's recordings as evidence in a recent murder trial.

"The recordings are securely stored in the [Amazon Web Services] cloud and tied to your account to allow the service to be personalized for each user", an Amazon spokeswoman said in an email. Sonos offers support for nearly every music streaming service under the sun, along with a larger ecosystem with multiple speakers at various sizes and price points (including the ability to add non-Sonos speakers to the network). "The iTunes store has great data, but the scale of it is not Google or Amazon".

It's a different situation with the HomePod. A six-microphone array will be able to detect your voice commands, even with music playing.

It's especially frustrating because Apple had a huge opportunity with Siri here that it could have taken advantage of. With seven tweeters and one woofer it should offer much better sound quality than the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Amazon and Google are early movers in this market. Ask any of them what the weather is, and you'll get a forecast.

Then there's Siri. Independent research suggests that Siri has some catching up to do when compared to other smart assistants like Alexa (Amazon), Cortana (Microsoft) and Google Assistant. After that, they're deleted automatically and another copy - without any identifiers - helps improve Siri for up to two years.

As Apple itself mentioned, Siri is often used to deal with information that has nothing to do with music.