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100m smart speakers expected to be in use by end of 2018

Research firm Canalys has published the latest report predicting the growth of the smart-speakers market, and there’s a big, round number attached to it. “Canalys expects the smart speaker installed base will approach the 100-million barrier by the end of this year, making it almost 2.5 times bigger than at the end of 2017,” claimed the company.

Its analysis also provides some new forecasts for market shares of the big western tech players in this market. Canalys reckons that Amazon Echo devices will account for more than 50% of the install base in 2018, compared to 30% for Google Home devices and 4% for Apple’s HomePod – or 50m, 30m and 4m units respectively.

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High-end AirPods tipped for 2019: what about hi-res Apple Music?

Bloomberg claims that Apple is planning to revamp its listening hardware in 2019, with “higher-end AirPods, a new HomePod and studio-quality over-ear headphones” tipped to make their debut in 2019.

The story has plenty of details on which partners may manufacture the new devices, and positions the new over-ear headphones as a “higher-end alternative to the company’s Beats line”. What it doesn’t mention, though, is what this might mean for the music that’s listened to through these earphones and headphones.

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Analyst predicts 2m-2.5m Apple HomePod sales in 2018

Predicting Apple device sales is a risky business, especially if you’re saying they’re going to disappoint: the company has a habit of proving naysayers wrong.

Still, research firm KGI’s analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s tealeaf-reading skills are generally respected within the tech industry, so his latest prediction is getting plenty of airing.

Kuo claims that Apple could sell between 2m and 2.5m of its HomePod smart speakers in 2018, which is well below other analyst estimates of anywhere between 7m and 10m units this year.

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Smart speakers’ impact on music: ‘I don’t think it can be overhyped…’

More than 26m smart speakers were shipped globally in 2017 according to research firm Futuresource, with the Amazon Echo and Google Home ranges proving popular devices.

That was the spur for an event hosted by British music-industry bodies the BPI and ERA last night in London, and a report exploring the impact for music, published by Music Ally in partnership with the two organisations.

You can read the report here: it’s part primer on the devices and market figures, and part analysis of what the growth of this hardware category means for musicians, fans and music rightsholders.

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HomePod pre-orders impress as Samsung smart speaker is delayed

Research firm NPD Group has shared a small data point about the recent launch of Apple’s HomePod smart speaker.

“In the US, day one pre-orders of HomePod were higher than all other smart speaker first day pre-orders, except Amazon’s Echo Dot,” wrote executive director Ben Arnold in a blog post yesterday. “With Siri, Apple Music, and HomeKit, Apple has all the necessary integrations to be a success in the smart speaker market.”

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Survey claims early satisfaction with smart speakers is high

89% of Americans who’ve bought a smart speaker so far are satisfied with their device, according to a new survey published by investment firm Loup Ventures.

“A closer look at the results reveals the reason for this high satisfaction; early use cases are simple (Music, weather, general questions),” wrote analyst Gene Munster. “While questions remain simple today, we expect what users demand from their smart speakers to become more complex.”

The survey also updated Loup’s stats on smart-speaker ownership in the US, with 31% of respondents saying they own at least one of these devices, with Amazon’s Echo range taking a 55% share of those owned devices.

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Apple CEO worried about ‘humanity’ draining out of music

Apple CEO Tim Cook is worried that music is just becoming a ‘bits and bytes’ world. He expressed the view in an interview with Fast Company, in which he was asked about Apple’s past and present relationship with music, and provided an interestingly unplatitudinous response.

“Music is a service that we think our users want us to provide. It’s a service that we worry about the humanity being drained out of. We worry about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world, instead of the art and craft,” said Cook.

“We’re not in it for the money. I think it’s important for artists. If we’re going to continue to have a great creative community, [artists] have to be funded.”

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Consumer Reports publishes initial HomePod comparison tests

The initial wave of reviews in the press about Apple’s HomePod smart speaker have been very positive about its hardware – specifically its audio quality. Now Consumer Reports has published some ‘early results’ of its comparative tests pitting the device against rivals.

“Apple’s speaker does deliver very good audio performance, though it’s not the best-sounding wireless speaker in our ratings—or even the best-sounding smart speaker,” is their initial verdict.

The key here is that Consumer Reports isn’t comparing the HomePod to the original Amazon Echo or Google Home, both of which impressed more with their smarts than with their audio quality. Instead, it pits the HomePod against the Sonos One and Google Home Max.

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Apple HomePod release sparks more analyst predictions

The Apple HomePod joined the smart-speakers battle on Friday, with first shipments of the device landing in people’s living rooms and kitchens. The first takes on HomePod in last week’s reviews are hardening into a wider critical consensus: that the device offers excellent audio quality, but that its ‘smart’ aspects are more limited than the main rivals.

Investment firm Loup Ventures published an interesting study comparing the main smart speakers along those lines: posing 782 voice queries (in categories including local, commerce, information and navigation) to a HomePod, a Google Home, an Amazon Echo and a Harman Kardon Invoke – the latter uses Microsoft’s Cortana for its smarts.

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Apple HomePod reviews: sounds great, could be smarter

Apple’s HomePod smart speaker goes on sale this Friday (9 February) in the US, UK and Australia, with the first wave of reviews published yesterday.

How does it compare to the Amazon Echo and Google Home ranges? Reviewers have been broadly positive, with the HomePod’s audio quality coming in for particular praise.

“From dance pop to guitar rock to orchestral pieces, the HomePod sounded excellent,” claimed CNET. “The audio quality is way better than any other smart speaker I’ve heard, including the Sonos One and Google Home Max,” added the Independent. “Easily the best sounding mainstream smart speaker ever,” said TechCrunch.

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Apple HomePod smart speaker will go on sale on 9 February

Apple HomePod, the company’s first smart speaker, will go on sale on 9 February in the US, UK and Australia, with pre-orders kicking off online this Friday (26 January).

The company announced the dates today, having delayed the device’s planned launch in December 2017. It will compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home among other smart speakers already available. Apple’s device will also launch in France and Germany in the spring.

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Report claims Apple HomePod is ‘a huge missed opportunity’

Apple has just announced that its HomePod smart speaker won’t be on sale until early in 2018.

Now Bloomberg has been shedding more details on the backstory of the product, which if the article is true, paints a picture very different from the finely-honed R&D machine that Apple is often seen as.

Among its claims: Apple audio engineers have been working on a speaker device since around 2012, but were “blindsided” by the launch of Amazon’s Echo in 2014.