It took a while for Apple to respond to Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home, but the much rumoured ‘Siri speaker’ is finally here. It is called HomePod, and it isn’t just a smart speaker that you may have heard about thus far. While the world got its first preview of the HomePod at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote, what stood out was the fact that Apple touted the speaker’s audio playback capabilities more than that of the artificial intelligence-assisted Siri that it also packs in.

The speaker runs the Apple A8 chip, also seen in iPhones.

Apple promises that it’ll be really loud, the sound will come from a cylindrical-shaped speaker that is just 7 inches tall. The design, however, allows it to move the sound in all directions, making for a genuine 360-degree sound output experience. There are seven tweeters packed in, with individual audio drivers. There is a 4-inch woofer too.

The Siri integration means it is completely smart, and will answer queries, navigate, get you the news and weather and even set calendar entries for you, among other things. It will also be able to control Homekit compatible IoT (internet of things) devices too, no matter where you are in the world.

Also read: WWDC 2017: Apple looks to make iOS 11 smarter, separates the iPad experience

Being an Apple smart speaker, the close integration with Apple Music is perhaps entirely expected. It will work closely with your Apple Music subscription, and will have access to your playlists and a vast 40 million music library, to pull in more recommendations based on listening preferences.

It is not just the smartness that lets it show off how it can answer questions or inform you about the weather prediction. The smartness around music could give the HomePod a significant advantage over the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers. The HomePod will have positional awareness, in terms of where it is placed in the house, the reflective hard surfaces and where the sound potentially needs to go. It detects the spaces in your home, and directs the sounds in such a way that you hear the best detailing, with the idea being to reduce reflections too. There will be multiple sound modes too, tailored to what sort of music you want to listen to, or what perhaps sounds better in your room.

Also read: WWDC 2017: iPad Pro, MacBook refresh shows Apple’s productivity push

The HomePod, sadly for us, isn’t coming anytime soon. Apple suggests that it will begin shipping the HomePod later this year, with a price tag of $349 (around Rs22,000). It will now be interesting to see how Microsoft positions its Cortana-based smart speaker, being made by Harman Kardon, which is also due for release later this year—that could also pack in some serious sound, considering Harman Kardon’s expertise.

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