New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

The new gadget will be a direct rival to both the Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers.

Apple vice president Phil Schiller said the company's Siri team had tuned the assistant into a "musicologist" that learns the tastes of listeners and gets songs from the internet cloud. It unveiled HomePod, a new 7-inch tall speaker for playing music, checking the news and controlling other connected devices in the home.

Apple's HomePod can play music, answer questions via Siri and control users' homes via voice commands.

Tim Cook, Apple CEO and Auburn alumnus, walks onto the stage at the Telfair B. Peet Theatre, on Thursday, April 5, 2017 in Auburn, Ala.

As demand for personal computers and smartphones ebbs, the company is joining Amazon (AMZN), Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google, Microsoft (MSFT) and Samsung in selling so-called smart audio speakers. Google Home and Amazon Echo have certainly jumped out to a headstart in this category, but that just means Apple has had a chance to sit back and watch the reaction in order to release its own version with hopefully less issues and an emphasis in key areas. Spending on VPA-enabled wireless speakers is expected to eclipse $2 billion by 2020, according to the consulting firm Gartner.

In recent years, Apple's launched many of its new products on the same date to a wide range of countries.

The device has already entered production, Bloomberg reported last month.

That's not to say Apple's new speaker will definitely be a hit, just to say that first impressions are often hilariously wrong. "It can't afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others as access to content, information and search becomes pervasive and less dependent on the smartphone".

Geoff Blaber, VP Research Americas, CCS Insight said: "It is little surprise that Apple has made a decision to launch a smart speaker".

Apple had plenty of other announcements. New iMacs and MacBook laptops start shipping Monday.

To demonstrate, visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic created a simple virtual reality experience set in the Star Wars universe, running on a Mac. Another Safari feature will stop video from automatically playing on websites. It also allows users to browse large product images and videos, and view star ratings and customer reviews on the product's detail page, the report explained. It will not actually block ads, though.

The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro is slightly bigger than the existing 9.7-inch iPad Pro and has a new high resolution screen that makes it easier to scroll and draw. It's unclear what happens to the data once its on Apple's servers. Apple also laid some groundwork for augmented reality, the projection of digital features onto real-world surroundings, by giving app developers tools for incorporating AR into their products.

Blau suspected Apple only gave a glimpse at its vision for HomePod, noting its potential to be a command center for smart houses and to mesh with iPhones, iPads, online services and more. The speaker's release takes advantage of improvements to Apple Music, which encourages social engagement (through updates of what friends are listening to), and employs insights gained from machine learning, like your favourite songs.