What to expect from Apple's rumored smart speaker

siri mac icon

We have the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, so naturally other tech companies are going to get in on the smart home hub game. This time it is Apple.

Multiple leaks have emerged over the past week reporting that Apple is creating its own smart home device, and just as you would expect from an Apple product, it uses premium components, but has a price to match. So what do we know about it so far?

In IT Blogwatch, we ask Siri the details.

So what is going on? Dan Ackerman and Shara Tibken have some background:

Apple's Echo competitor may finally be ready for our living rooms...a well-connected analyst pegs the timing for an announcement of a smart speaker that uses Siri to Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in early June.

Great. So who is this analyst and what do we know about the device? Kif Leswing has some more details:

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo...has a strong record of predicting Apple products...The product is said to be a speaker that can connect to the internet. Users can talk to it using Siri, which means it will compete directly with Amazon's Echo home speaker.

Can we get some more details? Harsh Soni has some:

Kuo said...there is an over 50 percent chance that Apple will release its first home A.I. product at WWDC...Apple's smart speaker will...[offer] "excellent" sound through seven tweeters and a subwoofer. The...speaker will be marketed as a more premium product compared to its competitors.

All good info. But what about who is going to make the devices -- and what will set it apart from the smart speakers already on the market? Duncan Riley is in the know:

Kuo...claims that...Inventec Corp., which currently assembles Apple’s AirPod wireless earphones, has signed on as the contract manufacturer for the device.
Kuo points out...that an Apple smart home device would have a number of advantages over Amazon’s Echo, including support for 18 languages along with an existing ecosystem of millions of iPhone and Mac users, making it an easy to sell add-on products.

So will this product take off? Kuo seems to think so. Neil Hughes explains:

Kuo believes that Apple could ship as many as 12 million units over the product's first year of availability...he sees Apple's custom W1 Bluetooth chip playing a key role in the product...The W1 chip allows wireless accessories to automatically connect as long as they are logged into the same iCloud account.
He also believes...support for the existing AirPlay standard for music streaming over Wi-Fi will help Apple gain footing in a new space.

What about price? Any word on that yet? Shilpa sheds some light on that:

As expected...Apple's smart speaker will cost more than Amazon Echo and Google Home...this smart speaker will have computing power comparable to iPhone 6/6s, and also offers multiple tweeters and a woofer, which makes it bear a high price tag.

Haven't there been other leakers, also? What else do we know? Joe Rossignol fills us in:

Last week, leaker Sonny Dickson...said the device will run a variation of iOS with unspecified Beats technology, in addition to a Mac Pro-like concave top with built-in controls and speaker meshing covering the majority of its surface.

Is this part of a larger Apple trend? Mike Murphy thinks so:

Apple has been stripping physical inputs from its products for years, and AirPods were arguably a first step into a world...where voice is the only way to interact with the device...A Siri-hub-speaker could be the ultimate manifestation of Apple’s fanaticism with minimalist industrial design...Picture it: the hub could feature next to no buttons...a monolithic design akin to the current, trashcan-shaped Mac Pro, and a complete inability to understand anything you ask of it.

Alright, Mike may not have the most confidence in Siri's ability to smoothly interact with humans, but that is besides the point. Has Apple been working on this for a while? Amit Chowdhry says yes:

In 2014, Apple started experimenting with voice-activated speakers...when HomeKit was released -- which enables smart-home companies to integrate products with Siri. Some of the prototypes...included facial recognition sensors for security and customization purposes. Back then, Apple was testing out smaller and larger sized models. But...Apple is now “finalizing” the design.

So what do you think? Will users want an Apple smart speaker? Dan Mills isn't so sure:

Why would I spend more money on something that already doesn’t work on my iPhone?

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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