New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Called High Sierra, it recognizes more faces automatically, which should make it easier to organize photos, and will offer more photo editing tools.

The seventh announcement which took everyone by surprise was that of Apple HomePod - something that has been rumored for a while, but wasn't really seen, even in the rumor mills.

The annual WWDC starts today and will run through June 9 in San Jose, California.

The company's TV app is also adding Amazon and its Prime Video service later this year for the first time.

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Where Apple may have the advantage is if it can, in fact, provide superior sound quality, given its stated focus on music. Shipments of intelligent home speakers surged almost 600 per cent year-over-year to 4.2 million units in the fourth quarter, with Amazon taking about 88 per cent share and Google 10 percent, according to consultant Strategy Analytics. The speaker will also maintain an emphasis on privacy by only sending voice data to the cloud in response to specific requests initiated with "Hey Siri", which the speaker will listen for with local voice recognition. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year.

Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing, said on stage that the product has been in the works for "years". It is roughly double the cost of the Amazon Echo ($179.99). This is very much, like Sonos' Trueplay feature, which similarly tunes its speakers to any room. Microsoft also has announced its own speaker with Samsung's Harman business; it will use Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant. For Apple, having one would further broaden the role that its software, services and gadgets play in people's lives. Moreover, it's the first hardware product from Apple, since the Apple Watch.

WWDC 2017 is finally here and let's find out, what exactly, does Apple have in store this year.

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"Apple is smart to frame the HomePod as a music-centric and audio-centric device rather than just another smart speaker or another home for Siri", said Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson.

The company was expected to introduce iOS 11, the next version of the software that powers the iPhone and iPad.

A new iMac Pro computer, which Apple claims is the most powerful Mac ever made, will go on sale in December priced at $4,999.

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