New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Apple does not release Apple Watch sales numbers, but some analysts have estimated about 12 million of the devices were sold past year.

Apple is expected to unveil an artificially intelligent smart speaker to rival the Amazon Echo and Google Home later today. Siri will be voice activated to respond to requests for information and other help around the house.

"Apple being very clever by launching its Siri speaker as a music speaker that's smart, because Siri isn't great", said Tom Warren from the technology news site The Verge. It unveiled the Apple Watch in September 2014.

"Though Apple appears to be playing catch up with Amazon and Google, the primary casualty here may be Sonos". Priced at $349, HomePad will go on sale in US, UK and Australia in December this year.

If reports of a Siri home speaker are correct, Apple will be entering a growing smart home market with a closing window of opportunity.

What's interesting about Apple's approach here is that the company has positioned HomePod as a music device first and foremost, a big contrast to the approach of Google which touted its Home speaker as a day-to-day assistant for many aspects of your life.

Apple also used its annual developer meeting in San Jose, California - its largest ever with some 5,000 people attending - to offer hints about so-called augmented reality technology. (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. "Apple is late to this game".

With Facebook, Microsoft and Google emphasising AI in their conferences over the past two months, market analysts believe it is Apple's turn.

Although it was first smartphone maker to come out with a digital assistant when Siri debuted in 2011, it hasn't had a stand-alone assistant. Although the format is not exclusive to Apple, it's not yet clear how well the photos will work with non-Apple software and devices, which mostly use JPEG. The speaker works with Apple Music, which allows easy access to a huge library of songs and playlists. So far, the service has limited payments to purchases of products and services from companies and other organizations.

Safari, Apple's web browser, is getting new features aimed at online annoyances. It will not actually block ads, though.

Apple is introducing an iPad Pro in a new size in an attempt to revive interest in its once hot-selling line of tablets. Yet it isn't as bulky as the 12.9-inch model.

The new version of MacOS, which powers Apple's desktops and laptop computers will also likely be demonstrated.

The new iPad Pro also comes with a better camera - the same one found in the iPhone 7 - along with more storage, a better display and faster refreshing of moving images.

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

Apple also announced the next version of its mobile operating system - iOS 11 - which will include a new setting for people who use their iPhone in the auto.

The app will give Amazon Prime subscribers the ability to watch Prime video content such as TV shows and movies while using an Apple TV.

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