Apple AirPlay 2 adds whole-home audio for speakers

Angelica Greene
June 6, 2017

Apple's Kevin Lynch speaks about the Apple Watch during an announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Monday, June 5, 2017.

Apple gave a sneak peek into its newest speaker at WWDC 2017 today, the HomePod. The speaker is similar to cheaper devices from Amazon and Google. 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.

The HomePod will launch in Australia in December, although a price is yet to be announced.

The speaker has the "power to rock the house", according to Schiller, who said the team worked to make HomePod a potent assistant for news, messages, weather, traffic, home controls and more.

And Apple will have a new "do not disturb" mode for driving.

Compared to those systems, Apple won't have broad support for music services, at least not out of the gate. But Apple was careful to frame it as a product focused on music first - potentially differentiating it from the Echo and Home. This device is believed to be Apple's answer to the existing smart speakers such as Google Home and Amazon Echo.

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released past year, were the first entrants in a promising market.

On the software front, RBC Capital analyst Amit Daryanani expects the iOS 11 - the next operating system for Apple's iPhones and iPads - to get an overhaul that will accommodate the anticipated removal of the home button from the 10th anniversary model of the iPhone due out later this year.

The HomePod is Apple's first new gadget in almost three years, following its announcement of the Apple Watch in September 2014.

A survey released last month by research firm eMarketer found Echo speakers held 70.6 percent of the United States market, compared with 23.8 percent for Google Home and 5.6 percent for others including Lenovo, LG, Harmon Kardon and Mattel.

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Like the Amazon Echo and Google Home , the HomePod will play music while also helping people to manage their lives and homes. The company also launched a new configuration of the 13-inch MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar that starts at cheaper $1,299.

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Still, the Apple Watch hasn't been a smash hit, fueling worries that the company's ability to transfix customers had waned after the 2011 death of co-founder Steve Jobs.

HomePod will be taking Amazon Echo and Google Home, which have been building momentum in the market for voice-controlled speakers capable of controlling smart appliances, fetching content from the internet and more. The company "can't afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others", said Geoff Blaber, research analyst at CCS Insight.

That leaves Apple. Although it was the first smartphone maker to come out with a digital assistant when Siri debuted in 2011, it hasn't had a stand-alone assistant.

Despite ever-shrinking sales, Apple announced a refresh for its line of high-end tablets.

Siri is getting a new voice, and the Mac is getting a new name. Another Safari feature will stop video from automatically playing on websites.

Apple also unveiled new Macs, addressing complaints that Apple has let its Mac lineup languish in favor of its better-selling products, namely the iPhone. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

The company also rolled out tools for developers to create augmented reality applications for iPhones and iPads.

Apple's new iMacs are getting brighter displays and graphics capabilities, which Apple says makes the Mac a great platform for developing virtual-reality experiences.

Apple is also bringing the ability to send money to friends or other people through its payment service, Apple Pay.

Other reports by GizPress

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