Welcoming a New Generation of Speakers with the Apple HomePod

Welcoming a New Generation of Speakers with the Apple HomePod

IT

The company was careful not to sell HomePod as a superior, voice-activated assistant, yet it remains hard to ignore the speaker's Siri capabilities.

The Silicon Valley giant launched HomePod - a "smart speaker" - with chief executive Tim Cook saying the company hoped to "reinvent home music". If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015. "We feel like we reinvented that in the portable player area, and we think we can reinvent it in the home as well".

Apple has thrown down the gauntlet to Google and Amazon by unveiling its Siri-powered HomePod intelligent speaker.

Apple's "True Tone" display will dynamically adjust the white balance4 of the display to match the light around the user for a more natural viewing experience.

At $349, it will be more expensive than Google Home ($109) and Amazon's Echo ($179) HomePod will be available in December. Just by uttering, "Hey Siri, I like this song", HomePod and Apple Music become the "musicologist", recognising preferences from hundreds of genres and moods, across various playlists, and shares them across devices. On an iPad with iOS11, users can open a second app and slide it over each other to create a "Split View" feel. "It's about being the best and giving the user an experience that delights them every time". However, Apple clearly attempts to make the device stand out by delivering excellent music-related functionality and really emphasizing the speaker aspect of this speaker (which would seem quite logical!). Some other hardware-based additions on iPad include instant notes and markup on feature (for all files including pdf) using Apple Pencil and a document scanning/editing utility.

That was my quick takeaway after getting to hear a quick demo of Apple's new speaker in a controlled environment versus the $180 Amazon Echo and the $299 Sonos Play:3.

Although Siri would likely be a centerpiece of a smart speaker from Apple, Moorhead said the device's design, colors and acoustics will also likely be focal points because the company has a long history of making elegantly designed products.

Consumer spending on smart home related products and services will reach almost $90 billion this year and reach $155 billion by 2022, according to consultant Strategy Analytics.

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.

Machine learning was a recurring theme throughout Apple's presentation today, and it powers a wide range of features across Apple's devices, from recognizing images on Mac to improving battery life on iPhone. "Safari can automatically use Reader to open articles in a clean, uncluttered format", Apple said. It unveiled the Apple Watch in September 2014.

But that's just the beginning of what you can do with Apple's smart speaker.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, at the company's Build 2017 conference in Seattle last month, unveiled new tools meant to democratize AI that could tap into services in the internet "cloud" and even take advantage of computing power in nearby machines. It's back in San Jose for the first time in 15 years.

Google and Amazon are both miles ahead in terms of product development, user familiarity and even basic capabilities.

  • Terrell Bush