Spotify Job Listings Suggest Its Building Smart Speaker

Music streaming service Spotify may already be working on its own smart speaker. A trio of job listings posted by Spotify suggest that the company is set to start manufacturing its new upcoming hardware product. “Spotify is on its way to creating its first physical products and setting up an operational organization for manufacturing, supply chain, sales & marketing,” Spotify said on its “operations manager” job listing. Other hardware related job listings include “senior project manager: hardware production” and “project manager: hardware.” The job listings were first spotted by MusicAlly. It’s being speculated that the hardware that the company is referring to is its very own smart speaker. Based on the job listings alone, it seems like Spotify is ready to start manufacturing its hardware product soon. Not much else is known about Spotify’s smart speaker. Rumors on such a device actually began way back in April 2017 when the company posted a job listing related to voice control functionalities, as pointed out by Forbes. Currently, Spotify heavily relies on third-parties to come up with their own product that offer the company’s music streaming service. This includes the Google Home and the Amazon Echo smart speakers, and the various speakers from Sonos. There’s also Spotify Connect, that lets users stream music from different types of devices like the Sony PlayStation 4. Some home speakers and receivers also have the Spotify app built-in. Meanwhile, Apple’s recently launched HomePod doesn’t have native Spotify support. This means that users won’t be able to ask Siri to play music from Spotify. Siri will only play tunes if users are subscribed to Apple Music. Spotify users can still use the HomePod to play music, but they will have to rely on AirPlay instead of giving convenient voice commands to Siri. With Spotify being left out of the HomePod, it makes sense that the Continue Reading

Apple’s new $350 ‘HomePod’ smart speaker is available to buy right now — here are 7 things you should know before buying it

Ben Gilbert, provided by Published 9:28 am, Friday, January 26, 2018 Apple's latest major product is now available to purchase: It's called HomePod, and it's unlike anything Apple has done before. It's a speaker, yes, but it's also a home assistant powered by Siri. It's Apple's equivalent of the Amazon Echo or the Google Home — but mixed with a bit of the Sonos home speaker concept. Apple CEO Tim Cook says HomePod, which ships February 9, is Apple's attempt to "reinvent home music." But what makes it different from the competition? And at $350, why would someone spend the extra money for HomePod? Here are the best answers we've found: Local Channel Now Playing: Now Playing Man+killed+by+police+after+stealing+bike%2C+riding+onto+Loop+410 Jacob Beltran Police: Drive-by gunman fires 30+ rounds into home, strikes man San Antonio Express-News Woman killed as firefighters battle flames for hours San Antonio Express-News SAPD: Man catches 2 suspect breaking into car on West Side, opens fire Caleb Downs Kawhi Leonard's Relationship with Spurs Is Just Fine, According to His Uncle Sports Illustrated Shots fired call near Alamo Heights prompts large police presence Fares Sabawi UTEP athlete, SA native snubbed @lamTre_/ Twitter Cold Case Unit, San Antonio Police Department San Antonio Police Department Sinkhole discovered on the West Side 21 Pro Video Timelapse shows icy cold front moving into San Antonio Courtesy AJ Pena If you're familiar with Amazon's Echo and Google's Home, you're familiar with the HomePod. Apple In other words, "HomePod is a combination speaker/microphone that both plays music and responds to your voice requests." —In the case of Amazon Echo, a digital voice assistant named Alexa powers the experience. —In the case of Google Home, a digital voice assistant named Google Assistant powers the experience. —In the case of Apple's HomePod, Siri powers the experience. Siri can play Continue Reading

Google is taking on Amazon’s newest Echo smart speakers — with a little help from some friends (GOOG, GOOGL, AMZN)

Matt Weinberger, provided by Published 7:00 pm, Monday, January 8, 2018 Lenovo Google Assistant, the company's smart voice assistant, is now installed on 400 million devices, including the Google Home speakers and certain Android phones.  Google is teaming up with partners including Lenovo to make "smart screens" — voice-controlled tablets, like the Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot. These smart screens will have YouTube. In December, Google pulled YouTube support from all Amazon devices.  Google Assistant is also coming to Android Auto, the search giant's connected car software. It's also coming to new headphones and speakers. Local Channel Now Playing: Now Playing San Antonio's Confluence Park seen from the sky mysa Woman hit by driver after running into North Side street mysa Mayor and others discuss the symphony's new schedule mysa Natural gas explosion at South Side motel hospitalizes 2 with severe burns mysa This tamale-making hack may change your next tamalada mysa Dog caught in middle of family's New Year's Eve fireworks mysa San Antonio child sings 'Remember Me' from Coco in heart-wrenching tribute to baby sister mysa Well-known San Antonio cook gunned down on his front porch, suspect at large mysa Man found dead in rollover wreck at busy S.A. intersection mysa Woman killed in fiery rollover crash on U.S. 281 mysa Amazon's Alexa voice assistant dominated last year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Now, CES is upon us once again, and Google is striking back — with a little help from its friends. First up: Google now says that Assistant, its rival to Amazon's Alexa, is on 400 million devices, including the Google Home smart speakers, certain Android phones like the Google Pixel 2, and other Google-powered gadgets. Amazon doesn't disclose a similar number for Alexa, but as of October, CEO Jeff Bezos had pegged it around 20 million. More importantly, Google is announcing a new Continue Reading

A Foolish Take: Amazon will dominate the smart speaker market this year

When Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) introduced the Echo smart speaker late in 2014, some critics called it an unnecessary device. But the Echo actually expanded the company's e-commerce ecosystem into homes, making it easier to order products from Amazon, use its streaming services, and control other connected devices.Amazon's first-mover advantage has given it an edge against Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft -- which have all introduced their own smart speakers. Research firm eMarketer estimates that this year, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once per month -- a 129% increase from last year -- and believes that Amazon will control 70.6% of the smart speaker market. (This forecast predates the announcement of the HomePod, which won’t be released until December of this year.)The Echo's success has spawned a family of devices, including the puck-sized Echo Dot, which requires an external speaker; the Tap, which is activated by a button; the Echo Look, which adds a camera for selfies and fashion recommendations; and the Echo Show, which adds an LCD screen for video calls. And Amazon could sell many more Echo speakers in the future: Global Market Insights expects worldwide smart speaker revenue to soar from $400 million in 2016 to $13 billion in 2024.Offer from The Motley Fool: The 10 best stocks to buy nowMotley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the S&P 500!*Tom and David just revealed their ten top stock picks for investors to buy right now. Click here to get access to the full list!*Stock Advisor returns as of July 6, 2017. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Leo Sun owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, and Apple. The Motley Fool has a Continue Reading

Apple said to prep Amazon Echo-like device

Amazon's Echo smart speaker may soon have some new competition — from Siri.Apple is reportedly in the prototype stage of developing its answer to Amazon's popular device, according to a new report from Bloomberg.Similar to Echo, the device would allow users to use Siri to control their home through voice, issuing commands to control everything from lights to locks to thermostats, something referred to as home automation.Apple has dabbled in this space the past few years through its HomeKit program, allowing appliance manufacturers to create Internet-connected products that can be controlled from an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV through Siri.While similar in overall functionality to Echo, one of the ways Apple's smart device may attempt to differentiate itself is with more "advanced microphone and speaker technology," two unnamed people told Bloomberg, though what this exactly would mean is unclear. Apple also has reportedly been experimenting with putting cameras on its devices to allow for the product to do facial recognition.Since making Echo widely available in 2015, Amazon has surged to an early lead in the race to control the home. The $179.99 Echo is the top selling home automation product on the company's website with a 4.4 out of 5 star rating on more than 43,000 reviews.But it's not just Amazon that Apple has to worry about. Earlier this year Google announced it would be coming out with its own rival smart-speaker called Google Home. Not much is known about the device beyond that it will launch this year, but the company is expected to provide more details when it hosts its next big event on Oct. 4.On Friday, Android Police reported Google plans to price Google Home at $129 and its 4K 'Chromecast Ultra' at $69. Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal Continue Reading

Amazon Echo turns into a sleeper hit, offsetting Fire’s failure

Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version incorrectly identified Amazon’s Fire Phone. SAN FRANCISCO — The Amazon Echo is turning out to be a sleeper hit.The stand-alone, voice-activated digital assistant is on back order,  it was cited when premium speaker maker Sonos announced layoffs and it appears to be prompting other device makers (think Google's Nest) to work on their own look-alike services.This is a nice come-uppance for Amazon, which saw its entry into smart phones crash and burn with the Fire Phone.Far from being simply a popular new tech toy, analysts see the Echo and its digital assistant persona Alexa as a game-changer. The question for many is whether Amazon will end up owning this vital market by the time it matures. Like the iPodWhile Amazon and others tout the Echo’s abilities in the connected home realm, the lure for many seems to be an easy-to-use way to play music, including everything in Amazon Prime's music catalog.“If you’re buying an Echo, that becomes your in-home speaker,” said Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group in Bend, Ore..He's getting deja vu from 2001, when the iPod was first released. The pocket-sized digital music player helped usher in a new and almost unrecognizable computer scene where everyone carries a computer (i.e. a smartphone) in their pocket, driving up Apple sales, profits and share price. Apple is now the world's most valuable tech company.“When Apple came out with the iPod, suddenly all the FM radios and the CD players went away. All the iPod did was play music. But eventually it led Apple to the iPhone and then it kicked all the phones off the market. It was amazingly viral,” he said.It's already starting to happen with the Echo.Sonos, the maker of the popular WiFi speakers, surprised many in the tech industry when it laid off employees earlier this Continue Reading

Amazon Echo: A promising but not fully mature voice

NEW YORK — You've developed a close, meaningful relationship with Siri on your iPhone, Cortana on your Windows Phone, or the personal digital assistant inside the Google app on your Android device. They clue you in on the weather. Help with directions. Answer trivia. Launch apps. Tell you a joke.Now there's a new voice hoping to win your affection. Her name is Alexa, and though she, too, can recognize and correctly respond to at least some of the questions you might ask out loud, she doesn't live inside your phone or tablet, nor is she as fully developed as the others.Alexa is the persona inside Amazon Echo, a new — and for now difficult to get — 9¼-inch-tall cylindrical Bluetooth speaker from Amazon that looks a bit like a container for a small, rolled up poster. Thanks to Alexa's presence, Echo isn't an ordinary Bluetooth speaker.She can field basic voice queries like these: "Alexa, how many calories are in a blueberry muffin?" "Alexa, who was the 23rd U.S. president?" "Alexa, who won the Oscar for best picture in 1971?" "Alexa, how do you spell Cincinnati?" "Alexa, what is the definition of serendipity?"Alexa can also set a timer, handle a simple to-do list, and best of all play music from TuneIn, iHeartRadio or Amazon's own Prime Music or Amazon Music Library. Used as a Bluetooth speaker, you can stream ditties from iTunes, Spotify, Pandora or other audio sources. Echo doesn't double as a speakerphone.You can ask Alexa to play a specific song or artist (if available) or genre, or request a designated playlist. If you blindly ask Echo to play music she will choose a playlist for you. You can also play radio stations (NPR, ESPN, etc.).The sound is good but not exceptional, especially at the highest volumes, but certainly of decent enough quality given the $199 price, reduced to $99 under a temporary promotion available to Amazon Prime members. You can raise or lower the volume via your voice.Echo connects to Wi-Fi and is always on, but must Continue Reading

Microsoft and Harman Kardon team up to take on the Amazon Echo

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY's newsroom and any business incentives.Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home have exploded in popularity this past year, but a new competitor has entered the scene. Made by Harman Kardon and powered by Microsoft's smart assistant—known as Cortana—the Invoke was officially announced today after being teased back in December.First and foremost is the direct integration with Microsoft Cortana. Already built into your Windows 10 devices and Xbox One, Cortana functions very similarly to Alexa, Google Now, or Siri. It can set reminders, make lists, answer questions, and control your smart home enabled devices.At this point, it's almost rather a personal preference on what smart assistant you prefer, but because Cortana is already in your Windows PC, there's a definite benefit from having it at the heart of your smart speaker as well. Unfortunately, there weren't any design innovations. It's pretty obvious where Harman Kardon got their primary "inspiration" fromBut, even if the Echo and Invoke look similar, what matters are the differences in features. The Invoke will be able to make and receive hands-free calls to cell phones, landlines, and any Skype-enabled device through Skype integration. That's something neither the Google Home or Amazon Echo can currently do.Thanks to Harman Kardon, the Invoke is also pegged to particularly excel in sound quality. With three woofers, three tweeters, and a promise of "true 360-degree sound," it certainly has our hopes up.While there's no word on pricing or an exact release date (only a promise for Fall 2017), we're expecting to hear more later this week at Microsoft's Build developer conference. But, if you like what you see, you can sign up at Harman Kardon's website for Continue Reading

Google Home wants to be your assistant, heating up the rivalry with Amazon Echo and soon, Apple

SAN FRANCISCO — When Christine Ha's techie husband ordered the Amazon Echo, she says she rolled her eyes skeptically, expecting another device to begin collecting dust in a forgotten corner of their Houston home. Then they plugged in the Echo on the counter ledge between their kitchen and living room and Alexa spoke to Ha."Life changer," Ha says.Ha, the vision-impaired contestant who won season three of the amateur cooking show MasterChef on FOX, routinely asks Alexa, the Echo's digital voice assistant, for an assist with everyday tasks.No screens to touch or buttons to push, Alexa can play jazz riffs or convert one U.S. dollar into Japanese yen. When Ha's making homemade ice cream, she can set a two-minute timer for the eggs she's whisking while monitoring the cream and milk heating on the stove. Ha's Nest thermostat is now voice controlled by Alexa, too, as are the lights, even the coffee maker.It's the kind of cozy relationship that Amazon's rivals — notably Google and its Google Home device and maybe soon Apple — dearly want to have with consumers, too. This week Google Home will try coax more people to give its smart-talking device a whirl by announcing new features at Google's annual I/O conference for software developers in Silicon Valley.More and more people are getting these devices to have a digital homebody at their beck and call who can fetch the news, read them an audio book, order diapers or dinner or tell them who's the prime minister of Lesotho. This year, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month, according to research firm eMarketer. And that's heating up the rivalry among the tech giants competing to get inside your home.The front runner is the Amazon Echo, which is expected to command 70% of the U.S. market this year. Amazon is Continue Reading

Live: Apple unveils $349 smart speaker HomePod

Hey Siri, ready to meet the HomePod?On Monday, Apple introduced the smart speaker HomePod during its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose. The speaker will ship this December in the U.S. for $349.Also, Apple revealed the first details of iOS 11, the latest version of its operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and other mobile devices.For a recap of Apple's WWDC keynote, scroll down below:3:25 p.m.: Former first lady Michelle Obama will appear at WWDC this week. Cook finishes the keynote. Thanks for joining us!3:23 p.m.: Cook steps on stage to wrap up. Not surprising, the HomePod costs more than rivals Echo or Google Home. Is the quality worth that price? Siri might help decide that in December.3:21 p.m.: Schiller says privacy is an important part of HomePod. All communications are encrypted and queries are sent anonymously. HomePod is priced at $349. It will ship this December.3:19 p.m.: Siri on HomePod will cover other areas like news, reminders, timers, traffic information, or send text messages. The big question: how will this compare to Alexa or Google Assistant?3:16 p.m.: Schiller says the HomePod works great when paired together. The speaker also includes a musicologist to suggest new tunes. The prompt "hey Siri" works on HomePod, to call up new music.3:13 p.m.: HomePod features a 4-inch Apple designed woofer, and features an A8 chip, which also powers the iPhone. "It sounds incredible," says Schiller. Music arrives wirelessly, and the speaker appears smaller compared to Echo, but closer to the size of Google Home.3:11 p.m.: Schiller returns to discuss a "breakthrough home speaker," combining smarts with really good sound. Apple's answer? HomePod, available in black or white.3:08 p.m.: Time for Apple's "one last thing." Cook starts with iTunes, then the iPod and iPhone. "We have such a great portable experience, but what about our homes?" Speaker time. "We want to reinvent home music," says Cook. 3:06 p.m.: iOS 11 will be available to all Continue Reading