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Apple debuts HomePod speaker

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HomePod marks Apple's attempt to put a stake in the smart-home assistant hardware market, an area now dominated by Amazon's growing array of Alexa-running devices, like its Echo speaker, and Google's Home gadget, which runs Google Assistant.

Apple has lagged behind Google and Amazon, however, in incorporating Siri into a voice-operated household device, and it was widely expected to start selling its own.

Still, it has several similarities with the other home-assistant offerings.

Analysts said Apple is playing to its strength in the music industry by focusing on sound quality and its catalog of songs available on HomePod.

While Amazon Echo and Google Home began stealing some market share from Sonos, Sonos prided itself on the excellent audio engineering that went into its speakers.

It's more than a smart speaker, though, according to Apple.

Now it seems the Echo is getting some serious competition from Apple.

A lot of things can happen between now and December, and one of them has to be Sonos announcing a speaker (and a retrofit to existing speakers that already have microphones) that runs Alexa, Google Assistant, Google Home, Bixby and whatever other home automation and artificial intelligence bots it can squeeze in there.

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Apple Inc. introduced a music speaker HomePod at an annual gathering of software developers on Monday. It boasts many complex features like a seven-speaker array of tweeters that "create an immersive sense of space - no matter where HomePod is or where you're sitting".

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.

Apple's Siri agent on the iPhone is available in 21 languages, although the HomePod will initially ship only for English. So far, interest in VR has been strongest among gamers, developers and hardware makers rather than everyday users.

And if you're a tablet kind of person, besides seemingly being in an exclusive company these days, Apple is trying to hold your attention or wallet with the new iPad Pro. The new 10.5-inch model offers room for a full-size keyboard, something the 9.7 inch model couldn't.

Although Siri would likely be a centerpiece of a smart speaker from Apple, Moorhead said the device's design, colors and acoustics will also likely be focal points because the company has a long history of making elegantly designed products. The new iPad starts at $649 and will start shipping next week. Both speakers can respond to voice requests for the news, weather and tasks such as turning on the lights.

The company was expected to introduce iOS 11, the next version of the software that powers the iPhone and iPad.

Taking direct aim at services like those provided by PayPal Holdings Inc, Apple also debuted peer-to-peer payments for Apple Pay in which users will be able to send money through the Messages app on iPhones.

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