replaced record collections with the iPod and earned
front pocket real estate with the iPhone.
it’s going after a bigger target: your home.
Cupertino, Calif., company announced Monday at its
annual World Wide Developers Conference in San Jose the
HomePod, a home speaker with Apple’s digital assistant
Siri built into it.
to Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home —
voice-activated, internet-connected speakers that play
music, answer questions and provide information such as
the news, weather, sports updates and metric conversions
— the HomePod listens and responds to voice commands.
the HomePod is like using Siri, without the need to tap
any buttons. To get its attention, users simply say,
around 7 inches tall, the device is wrapped in a mesh
fabric and comes in white and dark gray. Powered by an
A8 chip — the same chip found in the iPhone — it is
also spatially aware, modifying the direction of sound
to suit its environment.
at $349, the device, which ships in December, is nearly
double the cost of the Amazon Echo ($179.99) and more
than three times the price of the Google Home ($109).
price tag isn’t surprising, according to technology
analysts, who said Apple has always sold its products at
a higher price point because it wants to convey that its
gadgets are more premium than the competition’s.
while its competition has had a head start — the
Amazon Echo launched in 2014 for Amazon Prime members
and the Google Home was released last year — experts
in voice and visual search said instead of being late to
the party, Apple could raise the bar like it did for
digital music players when it launched the iPod, or
smartphones, as it did with the iPhone.
is the next frontier for search and discovery, and there
are lots of opportunities to leverage voice command
within the home," said Michael Levine, vice
president of marketing at Photon, a firm that creates
voice-based digital experiences. "It definitely
puts a dent into Google Home."
its developers conference, Apple highlighted the
difference between the HomePod and the Echo, saying that
while the Echo was "smart" compared to
wireless speakers such Sonos’ offerings, its sound
quality left much to be desired. The HomePod, in
comparison, was the best of both worlds.
a great dance they’re doing," Levine said,
because as powerful as Apple’s technology may be,
Amazon remains the market leader and has a built-in
market in Amazon Prime subscribers.
did not announce any partnerships for the HomePod on
Monday, but Levine expects the company to throw around
its weight to secure partnerships that give it leverage
than 35 million people in the U.S. are expected to use a
voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year,
more than doubling from last year, according to the
research firm eMarketer.
STORY CAN END HERE)
just unveiled a version of the Echo with a camera,
touch-screen display and video-calling capabilities. The
new Echo Show goes on sale on June 28 for $230. Amazon
also has the Echo Dot, a budget version of the Echo that
starts at $49.99. Google, meanwhile, previewed new
speaker features such as hands-free phone calling during
its software conference last month. Microsoft also has
announced its own speaker with Samsung’s Harman
business; it will use Microsoft’s Cortana digital
Monday, that left Apple as the one of the few major tech
companies without a home speaker offering. Although it
was the first smartphone maker to come out with a
digital assistant when Siri debuted in 2011, it hasn’t
had a stand-alone assistant. For Apple, having one
broadens the role that its software, services and
gadgets play in people’s lives.
wouldn’t be the first time that Apple hopped on the
bandwagon of a technology product popularized by a
competitor. For instance, Apple initially resisted
enlarging the size of the iPhone’s screen despite
strong sales for larger-display phones made by Samsung
and other rivals. But the company relented, and Apple’s
larger phones have become hot commodities as more people
have embraced having a bigger display to look at
pictures and watch video on the devices.
HomePod is Apple’s first new line of products since
the Apple Watch in 2015. The lack of a recent
breakthrough device has periodically raised concerns
that Apple has become too dependent on the iPhone and
supported the theory that the company lost its knack for
innovation when its co-founder Steve Jobs died of cancer
in 2011. Although Apple Watch has emerged as the leader
in its technological niche, it hasn’t become a smash
hit like the iPhone or the iPad — at least until
tablet sales started declining.
more and more companies betting on voice and visual
search being the next frontier, the HomePod positions
Apple as a major player in a burgeoning category.
Monday’s event Apple also introduced updates and
improvements to its professional line of Mac laptops and
desktops, and iPads. The company announced the new iMac
Pro, Apple’s most powerful computer to date with a
27-inch Retina 5K display, which will go on sale in
December starting at $4,999. It also announced a new
10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro that’s faster and
more powerful than existing models with more memory and
storage, which will go on sale next week and start at
addition to new hardware, Apple announced the new mobile
operating system, bolstered augmented and virtual
reality tools for developers, expanded Apple Pay to
allow for person-to-person money transfers (similar to
Venmo and Square’s Cash app), and revamped its app