Apple's making an Amazon Echo competitor called 'HomePod'

"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. Google Home followed in October and Microsoft's assistant, Cortana, is also finding a home in home speakers.

New iMacs unveiled Monday at Apple's annual conference for software programmers are getting better displays and graphics capabilities.

Analysts and investors are watching the conference this year for signs of what the company's next blockbuster product might be a decade after the introduction of its iPhone.

The latest version of Apple's Safari browser will be able to stop automatically playing videos as well as online trackers used for advertisers.

"I'm dispensing with the updates, other than to tell you, Apple's doing great", Apple CEO Tim Cook said in brief opening remarks as he took the stage at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif.

It also rolled out developer's kits for augmented reality and machine learning on iOS 11 and upgraded its Macintosh and iPad computers.

New features coming to iPhones and iPads, meanwhile, include marginal improvements such as syncing messages to Apple servers in the cloud, saving storage space on phones and tablets.

Additionally, Apple played up virtual reality with both its Mac hardware and software, announcing it is updating its line of iMac desktop computers with new chips from Intel Corp. that increase processing speeds and improve graphics. Apple said all communications are encrypted.

As we've seen in the past, Apple seems not to have interest in chasing the competition to the bottom and would rather differentiate itself as it has done time and time again - the pricey iPhone being the most evident example.




But while Amazon and Google have stressed the daily practicalities of the artificial intelligence assistants that run Echo and Home, Apple framed HomePod more as a music-listening platform, with practicalities like reminders and calendar nearly an after thought.

It is the first new device Apple has announced in nearly three years.

The lack of a breakthrough device has periodically raised concerns that Apple has become too dependent on the iPhone.

The company also announced that Amazon Prime, the rival movie streaming service to Netflix, will now be available on Apple TV boxes.

Apple of course never enters a new product category exclusively because it happens to be taking off.

Leading up to it, Apple says those outside app developers have earned more than $70 billion since Apple's app store launched in 2008.

Apple, unlike Amazon or Google, is more interested in selling hardware than in using its devices to attract users for its services.

Apple appears poised to unveil a voice-activated, internet-connected speaker that would create a new digital pipeline into people's homes.

Siri, the company's almost-forgotten, voice-activated assistant, has always been outdone and eclipsed by Amazon and Google's hardware assistants.

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