IT

Amazon exec: Alexa should be able to talk to Siri

Amazon exec: Alexa should be able to talk to Siri

Apple claims that the device will "reinvent" listening to home music, however it remains to be seen whether Apple's admittedly late entry will make much of a dent in the burgeoning home Bluetooth speaker industry. The new features earning the most applause from the audience, however were the ability to block videos from automatically playing in Safari and intelligent tracking prevention, essentially stopping those pesky targeted ads from following you around the internet.

Smart home features are another big focus for other smart speakers, and this will be the first such speaker to support Apple HomeKit. These giants are battling over still-emerging fields that are expected to turn into technological gold mines, much the way personal computers and smartphones became moneymaking machines in previous decades.

Apple at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday unveiled the HomePod smart home speaker. Apple says the added cost is for the more premium speaker experience it offers over the Amazon Echo, which costs $179.

That might sound insane coming from a company that hasn't, until the launch of this product, given so much as a thought to the home speaker market, but the early returns on the HomePod's performance show that Apple (again, like they always do) isn't diving blindly into this market.

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The speaker can also be linked up to an existing Apple Music subscription, which provides access to over 40 million songs. Initial thoughts are that the HomePod sounds livelier, with a wider soundscape, but we also feel that we would need to listen to more songs for longer to make a more rounded appraisal. At the Wired Business Conference today in New York City, the exec behind Alexa-Amazon's SVP of Devices David Limp-explained how he thinks Apple's connected speaker fits into the landscape.

Microsoft will have to find an angle that hasn't been tapped by Amazon (skills), Google (search), or Apple (music).

Siri now also has a male American voice, and is said to be more expressive due to a new visual interface. The HomePod is powered by Siri, but Apple didn't mention until it was half way into the segment about the speaker. During last night's prime-time breaking news coverage on CNN, for example, a capsule description of the HomePod - including a stat about its height (seven inches) - came marching across the ticker at the bottom of the screen. According to Apple it has been designed keeping in mind the music playback and it directs the sound intelligently by taking into account its placement in a room. A Google Home killer? To date, Apple has paid out more than US$70bil to app developers, including US$10bil since January.

The Cupertino, California-based company said Siri, which also competes with Alphabet Inc's Google Assistant, will now work across devices.

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The HomePod is essentially a delivery device for Apple's services, which now generate $28 billion a year in revenue. By treating hardware as an opportunity rather than a means to an end, Apple might actually be able to deliver a product that ends up as more than a gimmicky metal tube bound to eventually collect dust on a shelf.

There's also the Fire TV Edition, a 4K TV that starts at $449 (a 50-inch model is $549). It will not block the ads themselves, though. You'll generally be able to do the same stuff you'd do with Siri now on your phone, but via a home speaker. However, Apple believes that difference serves an important goal.

And speaking of driving, Apple is also adding a "do not disturb" feature for when you're in your vehicle, keeping you focused on the road.

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