Apple’s rumored Siri-based competitor to Amazon Echo and Google Home has reportedly gotten the green light to begin production. According to reliable sources, the tech giant’s first home device will likely be unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference this June. Sales of the device are expected to begin in the second half of 2017.
Rumors of the AI device first surfaced in May 2016 and, even though Apple has not confirmed development or production, continued reports about details of the Siri Speaker have reinforced those rumors. Bloomberg reported that the device had entered prototype testing last September, and now new evidence that Inventec has landed the production contract for the Siri Speaker, as reported by Taiwan’s Economic Daily News, are giving those speculations even more validity.
Inventec is the technology manufacturer that also produces Apple’s AirPods, the wireless Bluetooth earbuds that were released in September of 2016 at the same time as the iPhone 7. The working relationship that Inventec already has in place with Apple makes the manufacturer a prime candidate for the production of the Siri Speaker, and their supply chain sources have indicated that Inventec will either be producing the components needed to assemble Apple’s new device or they will be building the entire thing.
The Amazon Echo was announced in 2015, and since then, the only competitor in that market has been Google’s Home, leaving consumers wondering when Apple would get into the game. The speculation might soon be over, as the extremely reliable Apple analyst at KGI Securities, Ming-Chi Kuo, has given the Siri Speaker an “over 50 percent chance” of being unveiled at the upcoming WWDC, scheduled for June 5-9.
Kuo offered some additional details about the Siri Speaker – or whatever Apple ends up calling their new device.
“We expect Apple’s first home AI product will have excellent acoustics performance (one woofer + seven tweeters) and computing power (similar to iPhone 6/6S AP),” Kuo’s research notes stated. “Therefore the product is likely to be positioned for: (i) the high-end market; (ii) better entertainment experience; and (iii) higher price than Amazon Echo.”
Like the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers, the Siri Speaker will most likely recognize voice commands and offer consumers hands-free control of smart home devices, streaming music, access to news reports, weather forecasts, and web-based search results. However, Apple’s product is expected to outperform both competitors in intelligence, processing capabilities, and personalization options.
Until recently, according to CNET, the Amazon Echo has remained on top in the smart speaker market despite the somewhat lower price and customizable appearance of the Google Home. But with Apple’s entry into the arena, both Amazon and Google could be facing some much stiffer competition. Among some of the differences in sound, design, and processor power, the Siri Speaker will use machine learning and AI where the Echo only recognizes certain voice patterns and commands to activate predetermined actions. Additionally, the Siri interface already supports over 20 languages, in contrast to only English and German for the Amazon Echo, possibly making the Siri Speaker much more dominant in a worldwide market.
Amazon has been continually updating the Echo, and continually increasing the different voice commands and triggers that it can recognize, so AI and machine learning may not actually be that big of a difference to most users. However, interest in the Apple smart speaker is still expected to be high, and Kuo believes that the company will ship at least 10 million units just this year if his predictions regarding the announcement and production timeline are accurate.
With Apple’s success over a wide variety of technologies – CNET says their MacBook Pro is consistently one of the highest-rated laptops on the market, and the iPhone ranks at the top of the list for most popular mobile phone in 2016 according to Forbes – it is not unexpected that the technology superpower would move into the smart speaker market. The advanced AI and language support of the Siri interface could make the device far superior to the Amazon Echo or the Google Home. One thing is for certain – the tech world is anxiously awaiting the June WWDC and the probable unveiling of the Apple Siri Speaker.
[Featured Image by Kimberly White/Getty Images]