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Apple unveils an Amazon Echo competitor
March 23 2018, 03:08 | Alexander Lowe
Apple's Siri assistant will be integrated into the $349 speaker, and can make music recommendations that pair with the company's Apple Music service, send text messages, check news and sports scores and control compatible home gadgets like lightbulbs and thermostats.
It is also created to work with Apple Music subscriptions, able to access your music library and make recommendations based on song history.
The company is casting Siri as a music connoisseur that will learn and cater to the tastes of the HomePod's owners, as well as answer questions about the songs as they are played.
The HomePod will launch in Australia in December, although a price is yet to be announced. Google released its Home product in May 2016, and Amazon has expanded its line of Alexa-enabled speakers, which now spans five different products including the Echo Dot, the portable Tap, the soon-to-be-released Echo Show and the Echo Look, which is only available by invitation for now. If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.
It starts shipping later this year in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia. Apple will let people play audio in multiple rooms while Google works on introducing that to its Cast media streaming app.
"I think it's a very Apple-esque product in that it seeks to stake out the high end of a market with its technology, price and positioning", said analyst Paul Erickson from IHS Markit.
But it's also possible that the HomePod could expose Siri as less capable than Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana, Blaber said.
While there's a chance Apple could reveal more colors for the HomePod between now and December, nothing was said to imply that.
Apple had plenty of other announcements.
Safari, Apple's web browser, seeks to make users' online experience smoother and less annoying. It will not actually block ads, though. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.
The new software also contains a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" mode, which Apple says will help prevent iPhones distracting those behind the wheel, and a new "Files" app that resembles a traditional computer file system for viewing and organising documents. Developers will keep an eye out for hints about new capabilities in the next iPhone, such as so-called augmented reality, in which digital information is overlaid on real-world images.
Apple is also bringing the ability to pay someone back through its payment service, Apple Pay, much as PayPal and other services already do.
On the software front, RBC Capital analyst Amit Daryanani expects the iOS 11 - the next operating system for Apple's iPhones and iPads - to get an overhaul that will accommodate the anticipated removal of the home button from the 10th anniversary model of the iPhone due out later this year.