Apple Joins Smart-Speaker Race With Music-Focused 'HomePod'

Apple Joins Smart-Speaker Race With Music-Focused 'HomePod'


The HomePod, to be launched later this year, has six microphones built into it and is powered by Apple's smart assistant Siri. But the product seems directly inspired by existing smart speakers from Amazon and Google. Now Amazon's Echo and Google's Home smart speakers are finally making the assistants mainstream, while Apple's Siri flounders.

The device was announced on stage during Apple's annual WWDC developer event in San Jose, California, and it arrives "later this year" according to Apple.

During this week's conference, Apple also discussed significant software upgrades for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch and debuted new iPad and Mac computer models. HomePod uses the company's A8 chip, which Apple also used to use for its mobile devices, and a multicolor LED light on top of the device will signal whenever Siri is listening.

The speaker, while expected by some industry watchers, marked Apple's first new product announcement since the Apple Watch in September 2014.

The race to gain market share through Internet-connected devices in the home is still in its early stages. It would mark an effort by Apple to catch up with Amazon and Google.

People interact with the digital assistants on those speakers more frequently than on their phones, according to Technalysis Research of Foster City. By saying, 'Hey Siri, I like this song, ' HomePod and Apple Music become the ideal musicologist, learning preferences from hundreds of genres and moods, across tens of thousands of playlists, and these music tastes are shared across devices.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. It can play music from Apple Music, tell you the news, do unit conversions, send messages, schedule reminders, set timers, translate, check stocks, answer trivia questions, and tell you what the traffic is like. If you happen to be subscribed to Cupertino's music-streaming service, you'll have access to its entire library and your own playlists and preferences.

The research firm IDC says Apple and Xiaomi each has a worldwide market share of almost 15 percent in the first quarter.

Analysts said they will also be looking for clues from the company on its future plans, especially in augmented reality. And fortunately for Google and Amazon, Apple's Siri is widely seen as lagging behind the competition in both its quality and capabilities.

The week of WWDC is usually a bad one for Apple stock.

  • Terrell Bush