Apple 'HomePod' speaker to take on Amazon, Google

The squat device comes with what Apple says, are high-powered speakers, and will support the company's virtual personal assistant Siri to control smart home devices, like smart light bulbs and thermostats.

Eclipsing other news coming out of Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, this week, the tech titan just unveiled its first smart speaker. It also has six microphones to pick up on voice commands, which Apple says should allow users to interact with the speaker from across the room. Users will have the power of Amazon retail as well as that of Google Search and all its capabilities in one device. On its website, Apple describes it simply as getting an immersive listening experience no matter where HomePod is placed.

"I wouldn't want to talk about roadmaps, but I think when people are starting to spend that amount of money for a speaker - call it hundreds of dollars per speaker - I think that generally they are going to want choice", he said.

Apple's next big gadget is the HomePod, a miniature home speaker powered by the company's Siri voice assistant. It will also offers answers on a range of queries that Siri is adept with right now.

HomePod's audio performance isn't set to be bad either.

The speaker employs the same A8 chip used in the iPone 6 and 6 Plus, the iPad mini 4 and Apple TV. HomePod features a large, Apple-designed woofer for bass, a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters that provide high frequency acoustics with directional control and technologies built right in to preserve the original recordings. The speaker is about 7 inches tall and covered in a fabric mesh.

iOS 11 - The update features an improved Siri. Siri waveform appears on the top to indicate when Siri is engaged, with touch controls for navigation.

Apple is really pushing the music angle with claims like HomePod will "reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes". That sure seems to be what we're getting with the highly-priced HomePod. Apple is depending on spatial awareness to achieve its goal of reinventing home music, although it's pretty hard to imagine anyone would shell out $349 for a smart speaker. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year.

So is Apple HomePod a game changer?

HomePod will initially be available from December in the UK, US and Australia. Apple say it will launch at a price of $349 (roughly £270) in the United States, with official pricing for Australia and the United Kingdom will be released later this year. While Apple was an early entry into voice assistants with the introduction of Siri in 2011, voice assistants from Amazon and Google have largely surpassed Apple with the launch of Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers.