The battle of the home speaker AI assistant is coming to Canada

Angelica Greene
June 9, 2017

When Does the HomePod Go on Sale? In terms of audio quality and music curation, the Home isn't a bad performer, but audio fidelity takes a backseat to other features as with the Amazon Echo series.

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Apple pitched its speaker as primarily a music device, saying it links tightly with the company's Music streaming app, which brings in $10 in revenue per user each month. Critics instead saw a negotiating tactic to get Prime Video onto the Apple device, and a prod for people to buy Amazon's competing Fire TV players.

"Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes", said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. The other smart speakers support their own company's music streaming services, as well as independent ones like Spotify and Pandora.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook this week answered questions surrounding the the reasoning behind ARKit and the new HomePod announced during the WWDC keynote, calling the new speaker a "breakthrough" and Apple's ARKit's impact "profound".

Furthermore, there is some automation possible as well when you are not at home.

Analyst Geoff Blaber from CCS Insight said these updates could be vital to Apple and the HomePod's success. I reached out to Apple in order to clarify what can and can't be played on the HomePod, but never heard back.

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What Does All This Mean?

Aside from looking like a concept design for what became a murderous artificial intelligence, the HomePod is pretty cute, if not a little bland. All of them are spying on you, in one way or another.

On paper, Apple's choice to present the HomePod a Sonos-esque high-end audio speaker that's powered by Siri compared to a Siri-powered home assistant is deliberate and a concession.

As it stands now, it seems as if Apple is positioning the HomePod as an fantastic speaker system first and foremost, in stark contrast to devices like Google Home and the Amazon Echo which tend to be positioned as intelligent voice assistants that just so happen to come with speakers. "If Apple had not done this, its customers would embrace Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant". Google already tries to be proactive with its Assistant on Android phones and Google Home speaker.

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

I think given the premium pricing strategy, Apple appears to be ceding the fixed smart speaker mass market to Amazon. Indeed, its Echo speaker will have 70.6% of users this year. In fact, if we learned anything this week it's that Apple plans to leverage the hundreds of millions of Siri-powered iPhones, iPads and Apple Watchs in the market as it does battle with Alexa. Apple also laid some groundwork for augmented reality, the projection of digital features onto real-world surroundings, by giving app developers tools for incorporating AR into their products. Imagine pairing a well-done augmented reality app with a voice assistant capability in the home, and you might have something pretty cool. Even then, Apple says it won't know who you are - it'll just get an anonymous ID to help process a response. There are chances that Samsung's Bixby speaker could come with support for media casting devices like Apple's AirPlay and Google Cast.

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