Opinion: Apple wants to be your new home help

OPINION: Thank goodness. The new home help has finally arrived and on paper at least, it looks very capable.

Yes, we're talking Apple's new smart speaker 'HomePod' unveiled at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, on Tuesday morning much to the excitement of more than 5000 developers and the relief of journalists, who'd been waiting patiently for it to be announced.

"We want to reinvent home music," said Apple chief executive Tim Cook, before inviting Apple's vice president Phil Schiller onto the stage to show us a video of what it will look like.

"Just like iPod reinvented music in our pockets, HomePod is going to reinvent music in our homes," said Mr Schiller.

Apple's new HomePod
Apple's new HomePod Photo credit: Newshub

Yes, Apple's new pill-shaped speaker is focused on music first not Siri.

An A8 chip handles real-time acoustic modelling, making music sound good from room to room and audio beam-forming. There are six tweeters and one woofer.

You can also ask Siri questions such as news headlines and the weather. If you've got HomeKit-enabled devices you can control your lights, garage door, air conditioning and more - kind of like a music savvy mother except it can't pick up socks or cook...yet.

In recent years, the home has become the primary battleground for tech giants all heavily investing in the 'internet of things', the way smart devices link and talk together.

Apple's entry into our lounges has been rather delayed. Amazon has had much success with its Echo speaker while Google Home has also been popular.

HomePod is the first major product category under Tim Cook's tenure since the Apple Watch.  It will be interesting to see how the device settles in.

The real market potential for the HomePod is the 1 billion active iPhone users around the world. Apple Pay covers about half of them and Apple Music is open to all devices as well as Windows, Apple Watch and Apple TV.

That opens up a huge market for the HomePod, since streaming music alone is one of the main reasons people buy smart speakers.

The HomePod is set to go on sale in the second half of this year for US$349 (NZ$488).

Of course, that wasn't all that was announced today. There was plenty of other reveals to get excited about, particularly for a room full of more than 5000 developers, many of whom regard this event as the highlight of their year.

That's everyone from a 10-year-old boy, who started coding when he was six, and has five apps on the App store to an 82-year-old woman from Japan, who published her first app earlier this year.  

Apple's new macOS, High Sierra, was described as "fully baked" by Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, to lots of whoops and clapping. It'll be available as a free upgrade later this year.

Apple's new operating system for iPhones and iPads, IOS 11, also created lots of excitement.

Siri has got more human with two new voices. It can suggest topics of interest based on what a person is doing, and translate from English to Chinese, French, German and Spanish with more languages to come.

Live photos has got an upgrade in IOS 11 with new effects and editing tools such as being able to pick the frame to give the perfect shot. There is also improved storage, with better photo and video compression.

As for paying on the go? In IOS 11, Apple Pay can be used in imessages for person-to-person payments. That's great, unless your friend uses an Android phone.

The App store has been completely overhauled and there is a new set of development tools for developers called ARKit which Apple boasts is likely to become the largest AR platform in the world. Put simply every person with an iPhone or an iPad with IOS 11 will now have access to augmented reality.

For the iPad, more IOS 11 excitement.

"We are taking iOS to the next level. This is the largest iOS release for iPad we've ever done," Mr Federighi said.

Features include drag and drop and a new app called Files.

Here's a very quick run-down of everything else with as many key features as I can remember.

macOS High Sierra

  • Makes Safari the world's fastest desktop browser
  • Auto-play blocking
  • Intelligent tracking prevention, blocking and tracking using machine learning.
  • Mail gets full-screen split view
  • Apple file system: 64 bit top to bottom, built-in crash protection, native encryption, instant file and directory cloning
  • Metal for VR

WatchOS 4

  • Intelligent Siri watch face
  • New Toy Story character faces
  • Big focus on health with new features for Activity and Workout apps
  • Two-way communication with gym equipment
  • Let's you pick a playlist when you begin a workout

tvOS

  • Amazon is coming to the TV app and all Apple TVs come with Amazon Prime video

10.5 inch iPad Pro

  • About the same size as the existing 9.7 inch iPad Pro
  • Supports HDR video

New Imac Pro

  • Will ship with 8-Core and 10-Core and 18-Core Xeon Processors
  • Radeon Vega graphics

iMacs

  • Higher memory capacity (32gb on 21.5 inch, 64GB on 27inch)
  • Unity and Unreal bringing VR engines to the Mac
  • The new 21.5 inch iMac will be 80 percent faster in its graphic performance.
    All 4K iMacs are moving to discreet graphics

Macbook and Macbook Pro

  • Intel's new Kaby Lake generation processor and faster solid state drives
  • The 15 inch Pro is getting faster standard graphics

Emma travelled to San Jose courtesy of Apple.

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