Apple is expected to pose a direct threat to the Amazon Echo with a Siri-powered smart speaker of its own.
According to Ming-Chi Kuo, an often-reliable Apple analyst working at KGI Securities, the California-based company is preparing to launch the product later this year. The analyst believes there is a 50% chance that the so-called Siri Speaker will be revealed at Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on 5 June.
Kuo believes the speaker will use Siri to speak to its owner, just like the Amazon Echo uses Alexa and Google Home uses the search-engines Google Assistant. It is thought the speaker's design will be similar to that of the Mac Pro, a cylinder with a concave top and speaker grilles around the outside.
An extract from Ku's research note, obtained by MacRumors, states: "We believe there is an over 50% chance that Apple will announce its first home AI [artificial intelligence] product at WWDC in June and start selling in the second quarter of 2017 in order to compete with the new Amazon Echo models to be launched..."
Unlike the £150 ($194) Echo (or £50 Echo Dot), Apple will be positioning the Siri Speaker at a more premium market sector, according to Kuo, who claims the Apple device will have a subwoofer and seven tweeter speakers.
This, the analyst says, will lead to the speaker having "excellent acoustic performance... and computing power... The product is likely to be positioned for (i) the high-end market; (ii) better entertainment experience; and (iii) higher price than Amazon Echo".
The Amazon Echo and Google Home are primarily interacted with through voice commands. They can look up and read weather forecasts and news headlines, perform internet searches for general information, set calendar events, reminds and alarms, buy products online, control music playback and more.
Apple's speaker will likely use Siri to perform a similar range of tasks, but with improved sound quality (complete with Beats branding) and tight integration with iTunes and AirPlay for connecting wirelessly to iOS and Mac devices. It is also expected to control smart home devices like Nest thermostats and Philips Hue lights, as well as door locks, cameras, curtains and more.