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Updates to Apple's smart assistant Siri 'could be vital to HomePod's success'

Apple's smart assistant Siri must improve if the new HomePod speaker is to rival Amazon Echo and Google Home, experts have said.

HomePod, announced on Monday, will stream songs from Apple Music but also use smart assistant Siri to respond to voice commands.

Since the launch of the Echo and Google Home, it has been suggested Apple's own assistant has fallen behind its rivals in the virtual assistant space.

At the firm's WWDC conference, Apple focused on HomePod as a new way to listen to music in the home, with Apple saying their aim was to "reinvent home music".

But this has been seen by some analysts as a deliberate distancing from the smart hub genre both the Echo and Google Home sit in, with Apple instead choosing to focus on its strength in music based on products such as iTunes and the iPod.

Richard Windsor from Edison Investment Research said: "Apple has positioned this as something that the user buys for a high-quality audio experience with Siri coming as an added bonus.

"This is a smart move because Siri is not that bright and is easily outperformed by Google Assistant while being on a par with Amazon's Alexa."

At WWDC, a range of updates to Siri were announced, including increased "machine learning" capabilities and a presence in more apps.

Analyst Geoff Blaber from CCS Insight said these updates could be vital to Apple and the HomePod's success.

"Apple has embarked on a complete overhaul of Siri as it responds to considerable competition and heightening user expectations," he said.

Among the updates was increased intelligence and better understanding of context, Apple said - for example automatically offering to add items to a calendar when event tickets are booked.

Siri will also soon have the ability to directly translate languages for the first time.

"Weaving Siri into more apps in iOS is a necessary move to drive usage, increase trust and familiarity," Mr Blaber said.

"Only time will tell if the new Siri can compete with Google's knowledge graph or Amazon's natural voice processing but the installed base of iOS and Apple's scope for integration is a considerable advantage."

However, Adam Scott from comparison service PriceSpy said Apple's "late" arrival to the smart speaker market could prove an advantage.

"Apple has been clever in holding out on its own launch," he said.

"Consumers have now got used to the idea of smart speakers and Apple now has a captive audience to sell its HomePod to and the power of its brand will ensure it's a successful launch."