Apple unveils voice-activated, connected home speaker

Our Apple HomePod vs Google Home vs Amazon Echo comparison lines these smart speakers side-by-side, to see which is best for you. You're also getting two smart speakers - which can be used in separate rooms or together - for the price of one HomePod ($349). "If Apple had not done this, its customers would embrace Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant".

It's no surprise that Apple has chosen to put music as the primary sell for HomePod, because without an actual serious investment in building out Siri as a platform - which Apple seems reticent to do - there's no way it can win from the home assistant angle. Still, Apple says the primary focus of HomePod will be music, not home shopping, differentiating it somewhat from the Amazon Echo device. In fact, if you ask for a weather report, sports information, or to play one of your favorite songs, they all will.

Sure, Apple has just given Siri new powers and a brand new HomePod, but it'll be a while until it beats Amazon. Will you be purchasing a HomePod? It will play music, answer your questions, set reminders, and so on. All of this is controlled by Apple's custom-made A8 chip.

However, Apple won't be releasing the HomePod for some months to come, despite Amazon already having its Echo smart speaker firmly implanted in thousands of United Kingdom homes.

During the unveiling, Apple spent a lot of time discussing spatial awareness. But Amazon dropped in, seemingly out of nowhere, with a voice-based virtual assistant that won the early fight of the voice assistant war. The market now seems toppy, and may not re-ignite until or unless the Republican Congress actually manages to get something of significance done and sent to President Trump's desk for signature. The HomePod is a rich, room-filling speaker that accepts voice commands and connects wirelessly to stored music libraries and the Apple Music service. Salakhutdinov said he was not authorized to discuss his work at Apple in any detail. That is a smart move when you think that Apple not only knows music but knows hardware.

It's probably fair to say Google and Amazon are less interested in audio performance, though their speakers still sound decent. "Similarly, we went out to engineers and said 'imagine a world in the not-so-distant future where you have infinite compute and infinite storage".

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Apple is known for its design ethos, which aims for minimalist perfection in every product. Put differently, it's nearly like a Sonos speaker with the smarts of Siri, which is arguably not as intelligent as the others. Though not flawless, he says Alexa is better at identifying when the Alexa wake word is coming from a television rather than someone in your house who really does want to ask the speaker something. You could play out that same scenario for a wide variety of music services, including Spotify Amazon's own music service.

Look for the HomePod to go on sale in December for $350.

"Amazon is coming to the TV app in all Apple TVs later this year with Amazon Prime Video", Tim Cook told Apple's WWDC on Monday.

With anonymized IDs, Apple's speakers have a much more compelling argument for not handing over data: They can't find it.

By focusing on music and paying lip service to other home assistant functionality, Apple is delivering a minimum viable product (MVP) but cleverly selling it as a great experience in a realm it claims to own.

It will be much more of a walled garden and privacy will be the biggest concern, said people familiar with the matter.


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