Apple unveils an Amazon Echo competitor

HomePod reinvents music in the home

The trend-setting company also is putting new twists on existing products as it delves deeper into virtual reality and a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning.

To be clear, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Snap have all been busy in both AI and AR.

The centerpiece unveiling at Monday's WWDC keynote presentation, the Home Pod is a predictably good looking and well designed device, and Apple CEO Tim Cook says, for one thing, the sound quality for music is going to blow everyone away.

Apple has finally unveiled its answer to Amazon's and Google's smart speakers slash digital assistants - and it's called HomePod. With a seven-tweeter array and a four-inch subwoofer, the HomePod should deliver substantially better sound than Amazon or Google's equivalents. It's getting more features in iOS 11 and it's getting its very own speaker - the HomePod. It can wirelessly access over 40 million songs from the service.

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The tech giant confirmed the device would go on sale in December in the US, UK and Australia.

The long anticipated Apple rival to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, dubbed Home Pod, has arrived. Google, meanwhile, previewed new speaker features such as hands-free phone calling during its software conference last month. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year.

Apple introduces HomePod during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose.

The move is the first into a completely new area by Apple for more than two years as the world's most valuable technology company looks to make up for a dip in iPhone sales and new ways to get customers to use more of its money-making apps and services.

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The lack of a breakthrough device has periodically raised concerns that Apple has become too dependent on the iPhone. "It's the biggest brains ever in a speaker", said Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller. Siri will also be able to create a shared Up Next queue with everyone in the home. (Many reviewers have suggested that the current incarnation of Apple's assistant already trails competitors in key respects.) "This is the start of the AI wars", he said.

Amazon just unveiled a version of Echo with a camera, touch-screen display and video-calling capabilities. Apple said that makes the Mac a great platform for developing virtual-reality "experiences", although the company didn't announce any consumer VR products.

High Sierra features will include being able to stop unexpected videos from starting to play automatically when landing on web pages and "intelligent tracking prevention" that will prevent ads from following people about the internet.

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