WWDC 2017: 7 things to know about HomePod

Of course, being armed with Siri means it also functions as an assistant.

Apple was also expected to unveil improvements to Siri, its digital voice assistant that competes with Amazon.com Inc's Alexa AMZN.O and the Google Assistant helper.

It unveiled HomePod, a new 7-inch tall speaker for playing music, checking the news and controlling other connected devices in the home.

"Interesting that home assistant was the last feature they talked about". It's not an AI-equipped smart speaker but a relatively bold evolution of the Wi-Fi speaker that now comes with a still-in-development virtual assistant.

HomePod, aided by Apple's Siri digital assistant, will be priced at $349 when it begins shipping in December in the United States, Australia and Britain, the tech giant announced at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. 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.

"This does a great job of extending the tentacles of Apple services".

The move is the first into a completely new area by Apple for more than two years as the world's most valuable technology company looks to make up for a dip in iPhone sales and new ways to get customers to use more of its money-making apps and services.

Apple certainly has some catching up to do: An eMarketer forecast last month predicted that Amazon is expected to command roughly 70 percent of the smart speaker market share this year, with Google Home taking much of the rest of the market.

Notes is also getting a built-in scanner, meaning users will now be able to scan printed documents, import them into Notes, and then add their signatures or other handwritten content.

In a nod to Amazon streaming fans, Apple is also bringing Amazon Prime to its Apple TV app.

The latest version of Apple's Safari browser will be able to stop automatically playing videos as well as online trackers used for advertisers. Moreover, Apple's longstanding penchant for secrecy has made the company less desirable in the eyes of potential star recruits, who hail from the country's top computer science departments and are attracted to companies that publish research. "With AR kit, iOS 11 becomes the world's largest augmented reality platform", Cook said.

However, he questioned the practicality of augmented reality on a smartphone.

Apple said it is also using "on-device learning" to enable Siri to take people's tastes into account.

In January, the company was sued by a United States couple whose daughter was killed by a driver allegedly using FaceTime on his iPhone. Apple also announced a new macOS dubbed "High Sierra" that should please Mac users on both the professional and consumer side.