Apple pushes Siri to the fore at annual developer conference

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"It's so cool, we really believe it is going to take your home music experience to the next level", Apple chief executive Tim Cook said of the new device.

The Amazon Echo and Google Home are two of the most popular speakers available on the market right now.

The HomePod speaker is created to work with an Apple Music subscription for access to over 40 million songs and comes with an array of six microphones, so users can interact with it from across the room, even while loud music is playing.

It is quite unfortunate that Apple is under pressure to put its own smart speaker out on the showcase considering that the brand was the very first among the biggies to bring in a voice assistant. And with Apple's HomeKit, Apple's proprietary wireless protocol for controlling third-party smart home gadgets in iOS, HomePod serves as a hub that can control connected lights and thermostats.

It also gives Apple the justification to price the HomePod as high as it is.

The HomePod will be priced at $349, more expensive than Amazon's $180 Echo or $50 Dot and Google's $129 Home.

Considering Apple and Amazon have competed with each other in the past, this is exciting news and mends the previous issues between companies. But the product seems directly inspired by existing smart speakers from Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) and Google (GOOGL, Tech30). Apple says that "only after "Hey Siri" is recognised locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier". Cook is aiming to double services revenue, which also includes products like iCloud and Apple Music, to around $50 billion by 2020. It also needs to be fun to use, Apple said.

Finally, when talking about its ability to use Siri, he explained most in depth how the assistant can help with a range of music-related HomePod commands like "play something more mellow" or questions like "who's playing drums on this track?"

And on the hardware side, the new $5k iMac Pro will be the most powerful ever made, with 5.5 teraflops (a real thing) of graphics processing power on its smoogletron (not a real thing).

A survey released last month by research firm eMarketer found Echo speakers held 70.6 percent of the United States market, compared with 23.8 percent for Google Home.

The event will also see the tech firm discuss the next versions of software that power the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.