WWDC 2017: Apple Unveils HomePod, Its Siri-Powered Smart Home Speaker


The crowd cheered in California on Monday, when Apple announced HomePod, a new smart speaker armed with Siri, the company's virtual assistant.

"HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a lovely speaker that is less than 17 centimetres tall, can rock most any room with distortion-free music and be a helpful assistant around your home." said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

The big question is whether or not people are going to be willing to spend this much for the HomePod, and what kind of support Apple will offer for third party apps, like Spotify.

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. Apple also detailed that AirPlay 2, a new feature of iOS 11, will give you multiroom audio control, so we imagine that HomePod will fit right into that scenario, like Sonos would. There is more flexibility in Apple Music-related commands as well, allowing you to tell Siri, "Play something new" or "Add this to my workout playlist".

For photos, Apple is turning to a "high efficiency" format to replace the widely used JPEG standard. However, Siri has been slow to improve its voice-recognition technology and set of responses, especially compared with the more capable Alexa and Google Assistant. And all communications will be encrypted, meaning authorities can't try to tap home communications.

Later Monday, it's expected to announce an internet-connected smart speaker to compete with Amazon's Echo and Google's Home.

But while Amazon and Google have stressed the daily practicalities of the artificial intelligence assistants that run Echo and Home, Apple framed HomePod more as a music-listening platform, with practicalities like reminders and calendar nearly an after thought.

Will any of this change with Apple's next version of its operating system? You'll even be able to send iMessages.

Apple CEO Tim Cook waves to the crowd at the end of his keynote speech at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on June 13, 2016.

"To attract developers in the modern world, you need a platform", McIlwain said.

The HomePod will employ Siri as a baked-in "musicologist", with the personal assistant accessing somebody's music library to fine tune the experience, provide information-"Hey Siri, who plays bass on this track"-and help discover new music". The new iPad starts at $649 and will start shipping next week. Google and Amazon's comparable offerings will make that tricky. Another Safari feature will stop video from automatically playing on websites.

It will more or less inevitably feature Siri, the "voice assistant" that's familiar from the iPhone and other Apple gadgets.

Schiller advertised the company's "breakthrough home speaker" as distortion-free and spatially aware. The store's 500 million weekly users will see new tabs highlighting curated collections and article-like stories made by Apple, not just developers.