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Amazon Echo Users Lean Towards Apple, Study Says

October 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

What does your choice of smart speaker reveal about your other preferences?

If you choose a Google Home speaker, does that mean you drift Android-ward? And what if you bought an Amazon Echo?

Well, let me tell you. I have just been made smarter by a piece of research from securities intelligence consultancy Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

It chatted with 300 Amazon Echo and Google Homeowners between July 11 and 27.

It concluded that those who own an Echo — which reminds me of the result of an ill-starred relationship between an air-purifier and a lipstick — have a penchant for Cupertino.

Of those surveyed, 55 percent of Echo users have an iPhone. The remainder have Android. Conversely, 75 percent of those who bought the oversized salt cellar known as Google Home are committed to Android phones.

Josh Lowitz, partner and co-founder of CIRP, insisted in a press release that the proportion of iPhone owners among Echo users was higher than the phone’s share of the US market. That stands at roughly 34 percent.

As for the proportion of Android users among Homeowners, that was merely consistent with Android’s share of the US phone market, he said. (Numbers vary as to how big Android’s share is. Some place it at around the 55 percent mark.)

Lowitz didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

When it comes to tablets, Echo owners also skew toward Apple, says the research. 49 percent have an iPad, while 25 percent own an Amazon Fire tablet.

Google AI Scores Grade School Level Intelligence Rating

October 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google’s AlphaGo may have defeated Ke Jie to become the Go world champion but it’s no smarter than a kindergartner.

A recently published study showed Google’s artificial intelligence technology scored best out of 50 systems that Chinese researchers tested against an AI scale they created, although it’s still no smarter than a six-year-old, CNBC reportedMonday. At 47.28, it’s almost twice as smart as Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri.

AI systems have developed so quickly that it’s been able to act as an assistant, take an exam and even outperform us at strategy games. But the results downplay the concerns of “AI worriers” who have been uneasy about how fast it’s progressing.

To evaluate how smart an intelligent system is (or has become), its ability to “acquire, master, create and feedback knowledge” has to be tested, wrote the researchers. The IQ of 50 AI systems including Google’s AI, Siri, and Chinese search engine, Baidu, as well as three humans aged 18, 12 and six, were rated in 2014. When the authors took the scores of the AI systems again in 2016, they found that Google was the smartest in years and had improved the fastest (from 26.5 to 47.28), but it wasn’t enough to beat even a six year-old who came in with a score of 55.5.

The test also rated Google’s AlphaGo, the search giant’s AI system developed to play Go, against the authors’ intelligence grade model. AlphaGo was found to be in the third grade, which the authors say is two grades lower than that of humans.

Notable “AI worriers” include physicist Stephen Hawking and Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, who both won the 2015 Luddite Award and were branded AI “alarmists.” Hawking is a firm believer that AI could pose a real danger depending on who controls it, and argues that it could outsmart us and end humanity. Musk agrees there’s significant risk and asked for regulation in July, going as far as to suggest AI could start World War III. Alibaba founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, thought companies could be helmed by AI systems in the next three decades.

Google Assistant Comes To Bose Premium Headphones

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Last month Bose accidentally leaked shots in a newsletter of what appeared to be a new version of its top noise-canceling headphone, the QuietComfort 35. The tip-off was an extra button on the headphones that tech sleuths speculated had something to do with a possible voice assistant.

Now Bose has officially announced the not-so-secret QuietComfort 35 II or QC35 II and told us that the new “Action” button on the left ear cup allows you to connect to your Google Assistant without “having to grab your phone, unlock it, and find the app.” And that wasn’t the only Bose news of the day: It also introduced the SoundSport Free, a set of totally wireless Apple AirPods competitors.

Aside from that new button on the QC35 II, nothing has changed, Bose says. The price is still $350 (£330, AU$500). The headphone sounds the same as its predecessor, has the same noise canceling and battery performance (up to 20 hours) and the same controls on the right ear cup — audio volume and the multi-function button for incoming calls and accessing Siri.

Google Assistant is available for Android and iOS devices and is similar to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Instead of talking to your phone to access Google Assistant, you just press and hold the Action button on the QC35 II and issue commands. The QC35 II’s advanced microphone system “picks up voices with remarkable accuracy, so commands are understood,” Bose says. And the headphone’s noise cancellation “dramatically reduces sound around you,” making the Google Assistant experience more personal and immersive.

Tomer Amarilio, product manager for Google Assistant, posted a blog about the first headphones that are “optimized for the Assistant” where he details some of Google Assistant’s potential uses with the QC35 II. Presumably, other Assistant-optimized headphones are in the works.

The Bose QC35 II is available now in black and silver. Bose notes that the QC35 II’s Action button will access the Google Assistant only in markets where Google Assistant is available. In other markets, the Action button will control noise settings only.

Amazon Is Developing It’s Own ‘Smart Glasses’

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is busy developing its first wearable device – a pair of ‘smart glasses’, the Financial Times reported earlier this week.

The device, designed like a regular pair of spectacles, will allow Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa to be summoned anytime at all places, the report said, citing people familiar with the plans.

There would be a bone-conduction audio system in the device to allow the wearer to hear Alexa without inserting headphones into his or her ears, according to the report.

Amazon was not immediately available to comment on the report outside regular business hours.

Earlier this year, Alphabet Inc re-introduced its own wearable glass headset, Google Glass, after discontinuing its production last year.

Intel Announces VPU For A.I.

September 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has released its new Movidius Myriad X vision processing unit (VPU) which is Intel’s end-to-end portfolio for an artificial intelligence (AI) solution.

Intel is hoping the VPU will deliver more autonomous capabilities across a wide range of product categories including drones, robotics, smart cameras and virtual reality (VR).

Intel claimed that the Myriad X is the world’s first system-on-chip (SOC) shipping with a dedicated Neural Compute Engine for accelerating deep learning inferences at the edge.

It said that the neural compute engine is an on-chip hardware block specifically designed to run deep neural networks at high speed and low power without compromising accuracy, enabling devices to see, understand and respond to their environments in real time.

The Myriad X’s architecture has a neural compute engine which can manage a trillion operations per second (TOPS) of compute performance on deep neural network inferences.

Capable of delivering more than 4TOPS of total performance, Intel claims its tiny form factor and on-board processing are ideal for autonomous devices. In addition to its neural compute engine, the Myriad X combines imaging, visual processing and deep learning inference in real time.

It has programmable 128-bit VLIW vector processors run multiple imaging and vision application pipelines simultaneously with 16 vector processors optimised for computer vision workloads.

Also under the bonnet are more configurable MIPI lanes connect up to 8 HD resolution RGB cameras directly to the Myriad X with its 16 MIPI lanes included in its rich set of interfaces, to support up to 700 million pixels per second of image signal processing throughput.

Enhanced vision accelerators use over 20 hardware accelerators to perform tasks such as optical flow and stereo depth without introducing additional compute overhead. The centralised 2.5MB of homogenous on-chip memory allows for up to 450GB per second of internal bandwidth, minimizing latency and reducing power consumption by minimizing off-chip data transfer.

The Myriad 2 will not be replaced by the Myriad X. Last January, the Myriad 2 was described as costing under $10; based on the higher cost FinFET process and additional hardware features. The Myriad X will likely command a higher price for the higher performance.

Courtesy-Fud

Samsung Releases Bixby In 200 More Countries

August 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

As with new movie releases and smart home electronics, Australia, the UK and other countries seem to be behind in getting new technology offerings packing the US market.

One of the latest is the Bixby voice feature in the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus phones, Bixby being the assistant software similar to Siri or Google Assistant — which itself just arrived in Australia with the Google Home this July.

To install Bixby on your S8 or S8 Plus, press the dedicated Bixby voice key or swipe to Bixby Home and follow the update prompts. There are more than 200 countries now able to do that, including Australia, the UK, Canada, South Africa and more.

Then you’re ready to say, “Hi, Bixby” and begin familiarizing yourself with the features and commands that have been available to South Korean and US users since late July. You can start working on that here.

Walmart Teaming With Google On Voice-based Shopping

August 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Walmart Stores Inc is joining forces with Alphabet Inc’s Google to enter the nascent voice-shopping market, currently dominated by Amazon.com Inc, adding another front to Wal-Mart’s battle with the online megastore.

Google, which makes the Android software used to run most of the world’s smartphones, will offer hundreds of thousands of Walmart items on its voice-controlled Google Assistant platform from late September, Walmart’s head of e-commerce, Marc Lore, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.

Lore, who joined the world’s largest retailer after it bought his e-commerce company Jet.com, said Walmart would offer a wider selection than any retailer on the platform.

Amazon, whose voice-controlled aide Alexa allows users to shop from the retailer, has the lion’s share of the U.S. voice-controlled device industry, with its Echo devices accounting for 72.2 percent of the market in 2016, far ahead of the Google Home gadget’s 22 percent, according to research firm eMarketer.

Amazon has also dominated Wal-Mart and other brick-and-mortar retailers in online sales.

Wal-Mart has begun pushing back aggressively, however, offering discounts to customers who buy online and pick up in-store, and free two-day shipping for purchases of $35 or more. The latter move even forced Amazon, which rarely imitates the competition, to lower its threshold for free shipping.

Lore said in the blog post Walmart was also integrating its quick reordering tool into Google’s same-day delivery service.

“One of the primary-use cases for voice shopping will be the ability to build a basket of previously purchased everyday essentials,” he said in an interview.

He added that Walmart has bigger plans for voice shopping next year that will involve capitalizing on its 4,700 U.S. stores to “create customer experiences that don’t currently exist within voice shopping anywhere else.”

Customers might be able to use voice shopping to pick up a discounted order in-store or buy fresh groceries across the country, he said.

But while both Amazon and Google’s voice-controlled speakers are gaining in popularity, people still mainly use them for such basic tasks as placing phone calls or playing music.

To boost voice purchases, Amazon has started offering Alexa-only shopping deals.

“We’re still in early days, but shopping isn’t yet one of the big uses of the devices,” Victoria Petrock, principal analyst at research firm eMarketer, said on Tuesday.

“Obstacles to people using the devices to shop are cost and privacy. A little more than six in 10 people are concerned that these virtual assistants are spying on them.”

Non-Premium Spotify Users Can Now Stream On Google Home

August 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Spotify unveiled a nice suprise for those who use the music-streaming service for free.

Starting now, free users will be able to enjoy and control music through a Google Home device, just as premium subscribers have been able to do since the launch of the home hub, Spotify said Friday.

The news could nudge some free Spotify users toward investing in one of Google’s home hubs if they haven’t already. Especially if they’re trying to decide between Google Home and the rival Amazon Echo, which can still be used only by Spotify Premium subscribers.

Access through Home will be available to free Spotify users in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany.

“We are incredibly excited that, from today, millions of Spotify’s free users will be able to enjoy Spotify in their homes through voice-activated speakers for the very first time, thanks to the Assistant on Google Home,” Mikael Ericsson, Spotify’s product director for platform and partner experience, said in a statement.

Using a voice-activated smart home hub with a speaker lets you simply tell the device what you want to hear, freeing you from having to search for tunes on your phone.

With a properly configured Spotify-Home setup, you can get your music going by using commands like “OK, Google, play Spotify,” “OK, Google, play Discover Weekly” and “OK, Google, play my Taylor Swift playlist.”

After that, you just have to hope no one in the room objects to your choice and gives Home different orders (the only downside we’ve discovered to voice-controlled music playback).

Waze’s iOS App Allows User To Customize Voice Prompts

July 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

“In five hundred feet turn right.”

Sometimes a direction that makes sense on paper can be confusing on the road. But that’s OK because the Google-owned Waze is now letting iOS users record their own personalised directions.

You can access the Voice Recorder feature in Waze’s advanced settings by hitting “Sound & voice.” Tap “Voice directions” and you’ll be given the option to record a new voice. Your custom voice pack comes with a link you can share with friends, family and everyone on the internet.

Bought by Google in 2014 for $1 billion, Waze is a community-powered mapping and navigation app that gives you real-time traffic information and road alerts. The Voice Recorder feature was released on Android last month. And in March it introduced integration with Spotify.

Samsung To Delay Bixby Voice Assistant Again

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The consumer electronics giant announced to the Korea Herald that the English version of its digital assistant will be delayed — again — because it lacks enough big data to teach it to work properly. Bixby Voice was supposed to launch in late April before it was pushed back to “later this spring” and then to June. It’s unclear when Bixby will launch.

Samsung did launch parts of Bixby in April in the US, including the “Vision, Home and Reminder” components that offer features like image recognition and home controls. But the central part of the service — enabling a person to use voice to control and navigate Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 phone — is still only available in Korean.

The delayed launch of Bixby comes at a time when virtually all of the major tech companies are rolling out their own voice-activated digital assistants. Everyone from Apple to Google to Amazon sees speech as the next significant way to interact with your devices and is keen to develop a relationship with you. The hope is your loyalty to an assistant like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Samsung’s Bixby will better tie you to their products and services.

Samsung faces entrenched competition. Amazon leads the market with nearly 71 percent share, thanks to its family of Echo speakers with Alexa, according to eMarketer. Google is No. 2 with almost 24 percent share due to its Google Home speaker with Google Assistant.

Creating a digital assistant that actually, well, assists you takes a lot of data and examples of human interactions. These assistants get smarter with only time and experience, and Samsung’s delays underscore how complicated creating one can be.

Amazon has flooded the market with cheap Alexa-infused speakers over the past couple of years to get more people using its digital assistant. In its attempt to catch up, Google is relying on its treasure trove of data from billions of search queries to power Google Assistant. Microsoft’s strategy is to add its Cortana digital assistant to all Windows 10 devices.

Six years after Siri launched on the iPhone 4S, Apple is just starting to make it more useful but the company has a base of millions of iPhone users to instantly tap.

Samsung doesn’t have that luxury. When the Galaxy S8 phone launched in the US in late April, Bixby was notably missing, especially considering the time Samsung spent talking it up during the launch presentation. The Korea Herald said that early beta tests with US consumers showed mixed results.

“Samsung is continuing to dominate hardware, but once again its shortcomings in software and particularly artificial intelligence are laid bare for all to see,” said Richard Windsor, an analyst at Radio Free Mobile.

The Korea Herald report, citing unnamed sources, also said that the complexities of US engineers communicating with management in Korea has led to slower progress than with the Korean-language version.

A spokesman for Samsung wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Amazon’s Acquisition Of Slack Could Mean Deeper Enterprise Presence

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Online retail giant Amazon is rumored to be interested in purchasing collaboration firm Slack Technologies — a possibility that could give Amazon a more direct entry into the enterprise.

“Bottom line: this could be a good move for Amazon in terms of upping their game in the enterprise collaboration market, but the devil is in the details of staying power and execution versus competitors like Google, Microsoft and Facebook,” said Forrester analyst Art Schoeller.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Amazon is considering the move in a deal that could be valued at $9 billion.

A Slack official declined to comment on the report. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Slack has more than 5 million daily users, and has seen widespread adoption since its inception three years ago. More recently, Microsoft was thought to be eyeing the company, but backed away from a deal when it determined the price — possibly as much as $8 billion — was too high, Schoeller said.

Microsoft eventually shifted tactics and formed Microsoft Teams, which launched in November 2016.

The Amazon interest in Slack is noteworthy, given that in February it released a video and audio conference service named Amazon Chime. Schoeller also noted that Amazon’s WorkMail offering has not put much of dent in the popularity of Microsoft’s well-established Exchange/Outlook combo or Google Gmail.

Acquiring Slack would help boost Amazon’s market position, Schoeller said, but it would need to follow through with more investment after any purchase if it hopes to take on the major collaboration rivals. He also noted there could be spillover effects on Amazon’s cloud operations.

“If Amazon continues to add business applications on top of Amazon Web Services, it will give other partners pause because they would now operate on a competitor’s platform,” Schoeller said.

Although Amazon Chime already has a Chat Room capability, Schoeller expects Slack would displace that as instant messaging gives way to similar team messaging apps.

Chime competes with online web conferencing services such as Zoom, Uber Conference and Join.me. Alan Lepofsky, vice president at Constellation Research, noted that besides WorkMail, Amazon also offers Amazon Docs which is a file-sharing service.

“It will be interesting to see if Amazon and Slack make a good combination,” Lepofsky said. “Amazon has been trying to improve their reach inside corporate accounts, outside of just developers. They have their Workspaces virtual desktop, WorkMail and WorkDocs, Chime and Do…, but we don’t hear much about corporate customers adopting these tools.

“Perhaps Slack would provide them a foot in the door, kick starting the opportunity for more of their platform,” he said.

Slack could also act as a front end to many of Amazon’s A.I. services, Lepofsky added. The company could wind up with an Echo product line and the Slack platform for software.

Will Samsung’s Bixby Compete With Apple’s HomePod

June 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The as-yet-unnamed speaker will be powered by the Samsung’s Bixby AI assistant, according to the Korea Herald, which the firm has already confirmed will be coming to IoT gadgets as well as smartphones and tablets.

However, this is likely a sign that the speaker won’t be arriving any time soon, as Samsung last week announced plans to delay the rollout of Bixby to Galaxy S8 handsets in the US, because it’s, er, struggling to understand English. 

We don’t yet know much else about Samsung’s smart speaker, although the report notes that the firm has been granted patents for the mooted device in South Korea. 

News of Samsung building its own AI-powered speaker comes, unsurprisingly, just days after Apple took the wraps off its first stab at the Amazon and Google-dominated market. The speaker, called the Apple HomePod for some God-forsaken reason, is a 7in tall bin-like device

The speaker, called the HomePod for some godforsaken reason, is a 7in tall bin-like device, which can be controlled using Apple’s Siri AI assistant. 

Inside you’ll find Apple’s A8 processor, which the company claims is “the biggest brain inside of a speaker”. This sits alongside a 4in Apple-built subwoofer and a seven tweeter array with precision acoustic horns and directional control. We don’t really know what that means, either, but Apple claims it will “rock the house”. Er. 

The speaker also features “spatial awareness,” which allows it to automatically tune the sound to the space that the speaker is in.

“Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

“HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion-free music and be a helpful assistant around your home.”

The Apple HomePod will be available from December, priced at $349. UK pricing has not yet been announced.

Courtesy-TheInq

Can Apple’s HomePod Compete With Amazon’s Alexa

June 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Back in May, we wrote that Apple was preparing to release a Siri-based smart home speaker that would take on competition from Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo series, Google Home, and Harmon Kardon’s recently announced Cortana-based smart speaker.

On Monday during the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller took the stage and introduced the device as the Apple HomePod. On the surface, the name sounds almost nothing like a high-fidelity music device, but under the hood the unit features a number of multitasking commands all natively powered by Siri’s voice control algorithms.

Based on reports from the WWDC show floor, the HomePod’s audio output has been described as “full, wide, and heavily sculpted” and “amazingly loud for such a small speaker”. The company has tuned its speaker profile to provide deep thumping bass, bright vocals, and absent of any flats or distortions. We are guessing that Apple has tuned into the expertise it gained from its acquisition of Beats back in May 2014, which was intended to raise its competitive outlook in the music streaming business. This time around, it has developed a smart hub speaker that will not only raise the stakes in the voice assistant category, but seems to perform in the upper tier category for an audio product.

“It’ll sound right to lots of people,” says Wired’s David Pierce.

As it stands, Microsoft is the only company in the voice assistant market that has placed an emphasis on balanced, richer sound with the Invoke, manufactured by Harmon Kardon. That device is likely to include a propriatory DSP audio technology that delivers a similar 360 degrees of room filling sound, complete with echo and noise cancellation features.

Spatial awareness, Apple Music integration, daisy-chaining support

The HomePod measures under seven inches tall and features a large, Apple-designed woofer, a custom array of seven beamforming tweeters. Just as Amazon supports daisy-chaining multiple Echo devices together in multiple rooms, Apple will let users wirelessly connect multiple HomePods together to create a whole home surround system, only using Siri instead of Alexa. Each HomePod uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjust the audio levels, providing more directional control that doesn’t require repositioning several times to hear every tonal pitch from an originally mastered audio track.

The speaker, it’s claimed,  is  compatible with the entire Apple Music library and will be able to answer advanced Siri questions, including the ability to look up drummers and pianists. Of course, the device’s Echo-like features will allow users to send text messages, access sports and weather, and close the curtains without any music interruptions.

HomeKit compatibility

The HomePod is compatible with Apple’s smart home platform HomeKit, which lets users operate their thermostats, dim the lights, set sprinkler timers, and perform routine appliance switching functions. To make this possible, however, all connected HomeKit devices will need to have a special MFi (Made for iDevices) chip installed for machine-to-machine security. This is Apple’s way of not only getting partners to stump up royalty fees, but ensuring that any home automation products can’t be tampered with from the neighbor’s smart hub device a few blocks down the street.

Apple’s HomePod will not come cheap, with a price of $349 (£270 / AU$465) when it releases it later in December in the US, UK and Australia. By contrast, Amazon’s Echo has been selling at $180 since its introduction in 2014, while Google’ Home sells for $130 and the Harmon Kardon Invoke will likely debut at or below $200 to stay competitive with Google and Amazon. Now that Apple has made its announcement, however, Microsoft may change its price structure, depending on how it views the HomePod in relation to its own premium audio offering.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Unveils New iMessage Business Chat Feature

June 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Businesses are about to get a lot more chatty with Apple’s iOS 11.

Apple, at it’s Worldwide Developers Conference, announced its new iMessage Business Chat feature that allows companies connect directly with you in its texting app. It gave more details Friday during a developer session about how the service will work.

With the iMessage Business Chat, which is built into the upcoming iOS 11 mobile software, you’ll be able to ask questions, learn more about products and services, troubleshoot problems, and make purchases using Apple Pay. You could, for instance, chat with an Apple Store bot to ask for advice about which iPhone to buy and then even make the purchase without ever leaving the iMessages app.

“It’s easy for them, and it’s easy for you,” Apple said during an explanatory video on the service.

It’s not just Apple and other retailers who will use Business Chat. Your bank, wireless provider, airline and anyone else who signs up for Apple’s service could have chatbots of their own. Imagine being able to message with your airline to rebook your flight after a cancellation instead of waiting in a long customer service line or sitting on hold for ages.

Business Chat comes as Apple tries to make the software running its phones, tablets and computers even smarter. Apple was first to market with a digital voice assistant, Siri, but Siri’s capabilities have lately lagged those of the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and other smart assistants. As iPhone hardware sales slow, it will become more important for Apple to build its expertise in areas like artificial intelligence, the software that lets machines act more like humans.

Apple To Unveil Expanded Features For Siri

June 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc is expected to unveil plans this week to make its Siri voice assistant work with a larger variety of apps, as the technology company looks to counter the runaway success of Amazon.com Inc’s competing Alexa service.

But the Cupertino, California company is likely to stick to its tested method of focusing on a small amount of features and trying to perfect them, rather than casting as wide a net as possible, according to engineers and artificial intelligence industry insiders.

Currently, Apple’s Siri works with only six types of app: ride-hailing and sharing; messaging and calling; photo search; payments; fitness; and auto infotainment systems. At the company’s annual developer conference next week, it is expected to add to those categories.

Some industry-watchers have also predicted Apple will announce hardware similar to Amazon’s Echo device for the home, which has been a hot-seller recently. Apple declined comment.

But even if Siri doubles its areas of expertise, it will be a far cry from the 12,000 or so tasks that Amazon.com’s Alexa can handle.

The difference illustrates a strategic divide between the two tech rivals. Apple is betting that customers will not use voice commands without an experience similar to speaking with a human, and so it is limiting what Siri can do in order to make sure it works well.

Amazon puts no such restrictions on Alexa, wagering that the voice assistant with the most “skills,” its term for apps on its Echo assistant devices, will gain a loyal following, even if it sometimes makes mistakes and takes more effort to use.

The clash of approaches is coming to a head as virtual assistants that respond to voice commands become a priority for the leading tech companies, which want to find new ways of engaging customers and make more money from shopping and online services.

 

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