Apple 'HomePod' speaker to take on Amazon, Google

In many ways, HomePod will be able to do the same things as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, including playing back podcasts, setting reminders, checking sports scores, translation and controlling internet-connected devices.

"Just like we did with portable music, we want to reinvent home music", CEO Tim Cook said.

Apple noted the growing popularity of wireless home audio and smart speakers, but made the point that current offerings are lacking.

At Apple's annual developer conference in San Jose, Phil Schiller, one of its marketing executives, said: "I..."

HomePod capped a keynote presentation that included updates to Apple's iPad and Mac laptop lines, and upgraded operating software enabling augmented reality for iPhones and iPads.

The seven-inch speaker will cost $349 but won't be available until December.

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We all have unique requirements, and it's not unusual to have an iPhone, but use Google Chrome on it for web browsing instead of Safari, and subscribe to music streaming services that are not Apple's. While the device will have numerous typical digital assistant features, Apple is playing up the fact that it "rocks the house" as a music speaker, and Schiller spent much more time crowing about the device's technical specs than how it might improve the lives of non-audiophiles. But when you're telling us that all AirPlay 2.0 speakers will be controllable by Siri and any AirPlay speaker can be accessed and grouped by the Home app, we should probably spend a few minutes on that. The Siri digital assistant has been updated to understand more spoken requests focused on music, he added. If you already have an Amazon Echo and a Sonos speaker, there would really not have been anything new for you to gain from Apple's HomePod announcement.

The HomePod will be just under 7in high and houses the company's virtual assistant, Siri. Plus, the HomePod will connect directly to Apple Music, so you won't have to play music through another device, although we expect that will be possible as well. Citing "people familiar with the two companies", the report indicates that Amazon and Apple are "close to an agreement" that would bring Amazon's app to Apple's box sometime over the summer.

Several Apple HomeKit accessories work with Siri.

As for HomePod, Apple says that while the speaker's always listening, nothing will be sent to Apple's servers until you say, "Hey, Siri".

Apple launched a new size for its iPad - 10.5-inches. New MacBook Pros start at $1,299; the iMac Pro starts at $4,999; Apple says they both will ship in December. A lot of that hardware and software looked great ... but some of it was also overdue, perhaps reminding investors Apple is behind rivals in a couple of key areas.

He claimed this year's WWDC is the largest of the kind for the technology company.

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