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Apple reinvents home audio with the HomePod

09 Juin 2017

In tests across 5,000 different questions, it answered accurately 62% of the time, lagging the roughly 90% accuracy rate of Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa, according to Stone Temple, a digital marketing firm.

The way Apple is positioning Homepod is simple.

Apple unveiled its home speaker during WWDC 2017 on Monday.

Apple Vice-President Phil Schiller said the company's Siri team had tuned the assistant into a "musicologist" that learns the tastes of listeners and gets songs from the Internet cloud.

Apple will later this year release a "HomePod" music-centric smart home speaker, challenging a market now dominated by Amazon and Google in its latest move to weave deeper into people's lives.

That leaves HomePod in a weird place.

The HomePod speaker pricing starts at around $349. Siri, as a digital assistant, lacks the intelligence or functionality that its competitors have to offer.

There are three things that Apple touts with the HomePod's arrival: Siri, music and smart home control.

So if the government requests Siri data on a specific user, Apple would not be able to pick that info out of millions of random numbers. However, at 7-inches, it is slightly taller than the Google Home, but shorter than the slender Amazon Echo.

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Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. The Echo can support multiple users as well, but you need to manually switch accounts by name, at least for now - the speaker can't identify people from their voices.

Apple used its Worldwide Developers Conference this week to announce that the Amazon Video app will now play on the latest generation of its Apple TV OTT devices. Amazon and Google are running away with the market that the Echo helped create.

It's especially frustrating because Apple had a huge opportunity with Siri here that it could have taken advantage of.

"Apple built an empire, with iTunes, selling low-bitrate audio files to play over cheap white headphones", he added.

Apple claims the HomePod promises to mix the smart features of the above speakers with great sound quality. Why can't software developers do the same? Much like with Siri, Apple is just simply doing less than its competitors here. Have any of you tried Apple Music since it launched? Pricier than the Google Home at $129 and Amazon Echo at $180, but the speaker quality may justify the higher price. It's a "set it and forget it" product - you plug it in, and Apple's algorithms, microphones, and APIs do the rest, tuning the sound and configuring things for you. The speaker retails for $349 and won't hit store shelves until December.

It is the first new device Apple has announced in nearly three years. But if Amazon has its way, the virtual assistants could work alongside each other.

Smart speakers may not seem as glamorous as shiny phones or sleek laptops, but they're a rare example of an electronic device in which sales are rocketing, rather than plateauing. Then, we still don't really know that it is significantly better than the Home or Alexa or not. In the future, both AirPods and HomePod will benefit from additional integrations with Siri - but nobody buys AirPods, a MacBook or an iPhone for Siri.

Apple is going product first and platform second for a reason. Here's a detailed look at the specs and features of the HomePod vis-à-vis the Google and Amazon smart speakers to see if the Apple offering can compete with the other two.