Apple Hopes To Reinvent Home Audio With Its New Device

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The Verge runs down all the other big announcements from today's keynote, and those include a new iPad Pro model with a 10.5-inch screen, the new iOS 11 with improved camera and Apple Maps software, upgrades to Siri, and a powerful new iMac Pro on steroids that can support up to 18 core processors and is priced at $5,000.

The speaker unveiled Monday is similar to devices from rivals, some of which have been on the market for years.

Like offerings from Google and Amazon the new Apple HomePod has an intelligent voice assistant baked in.

In many ways, Apple kicked off the mass-market digital personal assistant trend in 2011 with the release of Siri for the iPhone, then considered novel for its abilities to respond to commands to make phone calls, check the weather, or set up an appointment (though its ability to understand queries was sometimes comically bad).

Unlike those other smart speakers, Apple is positioning the HomePod primarily as a way to listen to and discover new songs and artists.

However, it appeared that, for music, the speaker will be compatible only with Apple's streaming service, which costs £9.99 a month. Combined with Siri you'll be able to ask it to "play more from this band" or ask for more songs with the same guitarist and the like.

"It's so cool, we really believe it is going to take your home music experience to the next level", Apple chief executive Tim Cook said of the new device.

It starts shipping later this year in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia.

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Like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, the HomePod will play music while also helping people to manage their lives and homes.

The Cupertino, California-based company said Siri, which also competes with Alphabet Inc's Google Assistant, will now work across devices.

More than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year, according the research firm eMarketer.

Apple is also bringing the ability to send money to friends or other people through its payment service, Apple Pay.

The price is quite a jump from Google's $129 Home and Amazon's $180 full-sized Echo. That's especially important because people are starting to access information, entertainment and search in a more "pervasive" way that's less dependent on smartphones, he said.

Because the HomePod boasts Siri as its smart virtual assistant, it can talk about a range of topics, from sports to news to movies and more.

New iMacs unveiled Monday at Apple's annual conference for software programmers are getting better displays and graphics capabilities. Augmented reality is the blending of the physical and virtual worlds. It will not actually block ads, though. The new iPad starts at $649 and will start shipping next week. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

The technology, a feature of the wildly successfully smartphone game Pokemon Go, overlays digital information on real-world images and is seen as an area in which the keenly awaited 10th-anniversary iPhone can stand out from competitors.

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