Apple HomePod at $349: Can Superior Audio Trump Competitors' AI Capabilities?

Apple's home hub is here. The speaker is similar to cheaper devices from Amazon and Google.

Apple's developer conference is often a gut-check for bullish investors, and the company seems to have passed the test this time.

During the first half the keynote, Apple hinted about the next versions of its operating systems for the Mac and Apple Watch - both of which will be available for download in the fall, alongside new iMacs, MacBooks and a new high-end product called the iMac Pro.

The 2017 event opened on Monday and featured the company's top executives making announcements about iPhones, MacBooks, and new Apple products.

Given Siri, already available on iPhone devices, now supports more than 30 languages including Korean, Apple's smart speaker is widely expected to hit other global markets in the near future. It also needs to be fun to use, Apple said. The speaker will also be able to sense the size of the room using acoustics.

A set of iOS 11 features including enabling smartphone cameras to read QR codes are aimed at the China market, where Apple would like to bolster iPhone sales. The HomePod can be operated via Siri and is priced at $349. "Apple is smart to position it as music centric rather than yet another smart speaker or just a home for a digital assistant", Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research, told CNET.

In a nod to Amazon streaming fans, Apple is also bringing Amazon Prime to its Apple TV app. It will also work with Apple services such as Messages and its smart home appliance platform, HomeKit. With the HomePod, only after Hey Siri is recognized locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier.

Apple has established the "tick tock" release schedule of the iPhone, and High Sierra is further evidence that this mentality is fully established in macOS' release schedule as well.

ProMotion also improves the Apple Pencil's latency to just 20 milliseconds and according to Apple the tech will adjust the refresh rate when needed to reduce power consumption.

While Apple's all-in-one desktop was at the centre of a lot of fanfare when it introduced the 5K Retina display iMac in 2014, the computer has slipped under the radar since, with incremental changes but no real standout features. It may be not be the most impressive speaker in the Sonos line-up (and many people including folks here think it is their worst and worse than the Play:1), but for a relatively small device, it delivers impressive sound quality and volume.

The feature, called "Do Not Disturb While Driving", will activate if a phone is connected to a auto through either Bluetooth or a cable. Users can also play or pause tracks directly from the speaker. "But I did notice the HomePod was able fill a large room very well and sounded great no matter what angle I was listening from". A representative from Wingnut AR, a studio owned by "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson, demoed a more elaborate AR battle onstage.

Right now, that means giving developers the tools they need to develop the apps of tomorrow with machine learning features. The new 10.5-inch model offers room for a full-size keyboard, something the 9.7 inch model couldn't.

And the operating system for mobile devices is getting a major update with iOS 11. That's especially important because people are starting to access information, entertainment and search in a more "pervasive" way that's less dependent on smarthphones, he said.

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