Expect Apple's first smart speaker to take on Amazon Echo later this year (AAPL)
Apple has started manufacturing its long-rumored smart speaker, and it could start shipping the gadget later this year, according to a published report.
The speaker, which will go up against Amazon's Echo and Google Home, will use Siri, the voice assistant software on the iPhone and Mac, according to the report from Bloomberg, which was published on Wednesday. Like its rivals, Apple's screenless speaker will answer users' questions, turn on smart lights or lock automatic door locks on command, and play music.
Apple hopes to distinguish its gadget with superior sound quality. The speaker will sport surround-sound technology and will work with Apple services such as Apple Music, according to Bloomberg.
Indeed, the company's impetus for producing a smart speaker may be to help it lock users to those paid services. CEO Tim Cook has recently touted Apple's online services business, which also includes iCloud and its App Store, as a growth engine for the company.
The Siri speaker is being manufactured by Inventec, the same company that makes the Apple's AirPods, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. The wireless earbuds have been a surprise hit for Apple. Although the company hasn't released sales numbers for the AirPods, they have been backordered on its website since they first went on sale.
WWDC, Apple's annual conference for software developers, is scheduled to kick off next Monday. The iPhone maker is expected to unveil new hardware there, including updated laptops and iPads. But it's unclear whether it will also reveal the Siri Speaker.