Amazon's digital assistant Alexa now has named reminders and timers

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It will utilise Apple music and Siri to do everything from play music to control other smart home appliances. If that doesn't happen before the speaker launches later this year, however, the two colors Apple has picked are at least subtle and non-offending.

Apple seems to be concentrating on the music capabilities of the HomePod to start. Pulling music from the Apple library, the speaker was presented as being able to recognize its placement and direct rich audio sound into the room. It would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015. Apple has also make HomePod a "home assistant" that can answer all kinds of questions and tell you about the weather or the traffic. The voice-powered virtual assistant, which powers Amazon's Echo speakers, can also now schedule reminders so you don't forget to take the trash out in the morning or pay your credit card bill, for instance. Although Apple Watch has emerged as the leader among smartwatches, it hasn't become a smash hit like the iPhone. A preview of a new high-powered iMac Pro desktop, due to be released later this year, was also teased.

New features coming to iPhones and iPads, meanwhile, include marginal improvements such as syncing messages to Apple servers in the cloud, saving storage space on phones and tablets. The idea is to get outside software programmers geared up to write apps for Apple products.

The device was previewed on stage Monday at WWDC, Apple's annual developer conference in San Jose. Microsoft also has announced its own speaker with Samsung's Harman business; it will use Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant.

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Apple will go head-to-head with rivals Amazon and Google, as the USA tech giant throws its hat into the growing smart home arena.

Apple appears poised to unveil a voice-activated, internet-connected speaker that would create a new digital pipeline into people's homes.

Apple touted sound quality as a major differentiator for the Homepod, which will retail at $349, a pricier alternative to the Echo or Google Home, which sell for $179 and $129, respectively.

We have a great last minute deal on the Amazon Alexa Coding Bundle in the Geeky Gadgets Deals store today, it is available with 93% off. It most likely is now generating a bit lower gross margins on iPhones as smartphone component prices and competition heat up, but it has made up the difference from higher margin software products such as commissions from apps and subscriptions to Apple Music.