New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

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Amazon introduced the Echo speaker, featuring its Alexa assistant, in 2015.

"We really believe it is going to take your home music experience to the next level", Apple chief executive Tim Cook said as he unveiled it.

Some industry insiders, however, note Apple will be under more pressure to improve the computing smarts of its Siri software in the face of offerings from rivals Google and Amazon.

The smart speaker works by talking to an updated Siri that better understands music-related requests, Apple said during its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif.

It is quite unfortunate that Apple is under pressure to put its own smart speaker out on the showcase considering that the brand was the very first among the biggies to bring in a voice assistant.

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The Homepod, which stands at a mere seven inches tall, will integrate with Apple's Homekit apps, allowing users to adjust air conditioning, lighting, and more. Yes, you can do the same thing with an Amazon Echo or a Google Home, but remember: This is an Apple gadget. There is talk of updates to the Mac and iPad series to be announced at the Conference. The role of digital assistants in devices is likely to become increasingly important within driverless cars and as homes become more connected.

HomePod is Apple's first major new hardware product since the Apple Watch's release in 2015, and it comes at an important time for the company.

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With consumers less interested in buying new tablets, Apple has increased its focus on designing tablets for professionals to do much of the same work that they usually perform on a laptop computer.

Apple is also updating the operating software for its Apple Watch, including new watch faces, more personalized alerts that use machine learning to tailor information to you based on your routines and tastes. Both devices require a power supply and a internet connection in order to answer questions, select songs and make witty observations. Shipments of intelligent home speakers surged almost 600 per cent year-over-year to 4.2 million units in the fourth quarter, with Amazon taking about 88 per cent share and Google 10 percent, according to consultant Strategy Analytics.