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Apple HomePod brings Siri into the living room

09 Juin 2017

The Homepod has home-assistant features buried beneath a music-first sales pitch.

All iPhones and iPads running iOS 11 will also get the refreshed Photos app, with machine learning to identify events, memories and more.

Apple HomePod costs much more as well. The $349 device - shipping in December for the USA, United Kingdom and Australia - stands at seven inches tall, is wrapped in mesh fabric and comes packed with the same dual-core A8 chip used in the iPhone 6, giving it the "biggest brain ever in a speaker", according to Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller.

Just as Siri does on other devices, on the HomePod it can talk about topics ranging from sports, serve up news, or control smart home devices.

CEO Tim Cook announced the app during Apple's annual conference for software programmers on Monday. Siri, a digital assistant that has been on Apple's iPhone since 2011, will be voice activated to respond to requests for information and other help around the house. HomePod does not enable the range of some 12,000 tasks of Alexa or the range of queries Google supports. Schiller confirmed that multiple Homepods can sync up, should customers be interested in buying the ~£350 device multiple times over.

In lieu of those skills, Apple is banking on HomePod's superior audio quality to stand out from the competition. The Journal said two other Siri employees landed at Google and Amazon. Cook is aiming to double services revenue, which also includes products like iCloud and Apple Music, to around $50 billion by 2020.

Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing, said on stage that the product has been in the works for "years".

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Across the range, Apple is touting significant performance improvements including up to three times more powerful graphics. The new graphics cards are based on AMD's Polaris architecture and feature up to 5.5 TFLOPS of peak compute performance.

HomePod users may initially be constrained by Siri's lack of capabilities as compared to Alexa, which also boasts the ability to order millions of Amazon products as well as food from restaurants like Domino's.

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released past year, were the first entrants in a promising market.

Apple also said it was making its virtual assistant Siri more aware of context, enabling it to recommend and remind users more accurately based on how they use their device.

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.

Amazon and Google's existing speakers have proved popular with consumers since the Echo launched in the United Kingdom in 2016 and Home earlier this year. You can activate it with a wake word - "Hey Siri" - and ask an artificially intelligent assistant, Siri, to play music.

Apple is said to be taking a cautious approach to overly expanding Siri, instead working on improving its voice recognition so it can understand nuance.