November 19 2017

WWDC 2017: Apple HomePod Competes with Amazon Echo and Google Home

November 19 2017, 06:46 | Geraldine Moore

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"HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a lovely speaker that is less than seven inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion-free music and be a helpful assistant around your home", Shiller said. For starters, it's smart enough to process spatial data and make acoustic adjustments for the best sound in any location. There are six tweeters and one woofer.

In the privacy arena, Apple executives touted the fact that until the user says "Hey Siri" the speaker does not send any information to Apple.

Apple is also revamping the control center on iOS - the panel that comes up to let you control volume, brightness, etc. - to make it even larger and space out some of the functions. It will also work with Apple services such as Messages and its smart home appliance platform, HomeKit. Apple's entry into the market could change that.

At $349, HomePod is significantly more expensive than the $199 Amazon Echo and the $179 Google Home. It will be interesting to see how the device settles in.

At this stage, Apple hasn't revealed many other physical aspects of the HomePod, so we don't know about its connections. In early 2014 it unveiled Project Tango, a mobile camera system with depth sensors that can plot surroundings in 3-D.

Apple is finally getting into the home speaker business.

For now, the HomePod is not coming to India - at least not this year - so you'll need to get it from the U.S. for $349 if you really want one of these gadgets that are to be a sort of iPod for the whole home. Today's announcement of the HomePod doesn't address that, either.

"There's a lot of stuff that's being demoed out there by other companies, but here they're actually providing us with the tools", said Max Goedjen, a software developer for the Walt Disney Co.

Dubbed High Sierra, Apple's senior vice president of software, Craig Federighi, joked that when he raised the point that the name "might be miscontrued" the team assured him it was "fully baked". It'll be available as a free upgrade later this year.

Siri's integration also turns the HomePod into a voice-controlled personal assistant.

The smart assistant can also quickly translate English into Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish, with more language combinations to come.

Maps also received a couple of updates, including indoor maps for places such as malls - an institution that is dying, but hey at least it's a start.

As for paying on the go? That money immediately can be used in retail stores that take Apple Pay or can be moved to a bank account. That's great, unless your friend uses an Android phone. Its entry into digital-music sales with iTunes, and into the smartphone market with the iPhone, upended those industries and gave them mass appeal.The company rolled out new tools for developers to create augmented reality applications for iPhones and iPads.Apple shares closed down 1 percent at $153.93, not far below the all-time high set last month.

Besides that, augmented reality (AR) is coming to hundreds of millions of iOS devices this fall.

Features include drag and drop and a new app called Files.

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