Apple could be set to enter the increasingly competitive smart speaker segment with a device featuring its well known Siri assistant.
Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg reported the iPhone maker is already producing a speaker, which could be unveiled at Apple’s annual developer conference later this month and launched by end-2017.
Smart, or connected, speakers are an increasingly popular device category. Amazon’s Echo, controlled by voice assistant Alexa, currently leads the way after launching two years ago, but is facing competition from Alphabet’s Google Home.
Samsung subsidiary Harman International is also planning to launch its own speaker this year in partnership with Microsoft.
According to Bloomberg’s sources, Apple, which was long rumoured to be developing such a device, will differentiate its product by offering virtual surround sound technology, and providing deep integration with its other products.
A speaker would help Apple push its growing suite of services, such as the HomeKit system, to allow users to control appliances including heaters and door locks.
One of the main drawbacks for Apple customers using Google or Amazon’s speakers is they are not compatible with Apple services including its music streaming offering Apple Music.
Indeed, the company’s services business is becoming ever important for Apple, given a slowdown in iPhone sales in recent quarters.
CEO Tim Cook said by 2020 he expects service revenue to double from the $24 billion generated in 2016.
Taipei manufacturer Inventec, which produces Apple’s AirPod headphones, is now also manufacturing the speaker, said sources, and Apple employees have been testing the product for months in their homes.
Bloomberg said the speaker would add to Apple’s “other products” category, which includes the Apple Watch, Apple TV and headphones.
Other announcements expected at Apple’s developer conference could see the introduction of an updated line of iPad tablets, as well as refreshed Macbook and Macbook Pro laptops.