New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Apple Inc on Monday introduced the HomePod, a voice-controlled speaker that can make music suggestions and adjust home temperatures, taking aim at Amazon.com Inc's Alexa feature and Echo devices. Schiller said devices like the Amazon Echo have poor sound quality, and wifi speakers like Sonos don't have interactive voice assistants.

Apple's Siri assistant will be integrated into the $349 speaker, and can make music recommendations that pair with the company's Apple Music service, send text messages, check news and sports scores and control compatible home gadgets like lightbulbs and thermostats. Apple's reliance on the iPhone, analysts from the firm said, has become indispensable for a lot of people, but Apple itself is no longer driving the way that it's used.

Also, in important news for the upcoming macOS release, High Sierra, there will be an update to Safari that helps block site trackers and autoplaying videos - something that seems to be an epidemic on media sites right now and it drives me, personally, insane.

A slight bigger iPad Pro and a Siri speaker which is aimed at controlling home appliances may also be announced.

The technology giant also announced a new software kit for developers called ARKit, which will enabled app developers to build augmented reality apps on Apple's platforms more easily. Apple executives demonstrated the use of Macs to produce VR experiences, though they didn't immediately talk about making a headset to view them.

Apple wants its digital assistant to be more helpful in navigating your digital life. HomePod responds to other questions Apple users have been asking Siri for years, such as requests for the weather.

New iMacs unveiled Monday at Apple's annual conference for software programmers are getting better displays and graphics capabilities.

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Apple also shared the latest version of watchOS4, which continues to put the emphasis on the Apple Watch as a fitness device.

It starts shipping later this year in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia. If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.

There were rumours that Apple's smart speaker could be more like the Amazon Echo Look and incorporate video calls but the HomePod doesn't have a camera or screen.

Still, the Apple Watch hasn't been a smash hit, fueling worries that the company's ability to transfix customers had waned after the 2011 death of co-founder Steve Jobs.

It is created to work with the Apple Music subscription service and can produce rich sound while tapping into the artificial intelligence power of Siri.

But really, this is Apple's admission that it needed to kick the voice command can down the road a bit and strengthen Siri but it goes gunning for Google and Amazon.

  • Stacy Houston