Apple will release their HomePod to Australia on Feb 9.
The Apple HomePod looks like a typical smart speaker, and integrates with back-end virtual assistant and AI Siri. Siri for the HomePod has been enhanced to integrate with the Apple HomeKit platform, so that smart home appliances can also be controlled through the device using voice.
This is Apple's play in the smart home space, no doubt. They know they were late to the smart speaker party - something that they may have pre-empted in their earlier, more innovative days.
To downplay this innovative stalling, they've developed and marketed the HomePod as an 'intelligent and technologically-advanced speaker system' more than a smart home interface. This allows them to reap some creative and technical credit as it is differentiated from the other smart speaker offerings in the market. The seven tweeters that beam-form (adjust their volume and phase to create a more directional sound wave) based on the shape of the surrounding environment is impressive.
However, I expect their end-game is the same as Google and Amazon's - the real money isn't in the audio entertainment market, and they know it. It's in the smart home and office - the interaction with smart hardware, and the convenience of an AI assistant connected to consumer services.
I predict that as this technology develops, they will slowly change the HomePod marketing and technology to be more smart-focused than audio-focused.
Another Note: Amazon is reportedly working on the Echo 2, which will address the gap Apple has built between the two offerings in the audio-quality space. If they manage to achieve this, the HomePod will probably only be a compelling purchase to Apple fanatics only. The HomePod RRP is almost double the price of an Amazon Echo.