Apple HomePod from the SideIt is always interesting when a major tech company like Apple brings a new product to the market, even if it is playing catch up.  Apple announced HomePod, a smart speaker that will compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers, at their World Wide Developers Conference.  While the speaker doesn’t create or define a new market, it is sure to turn up the heat in the smart speaker category when it materializes in December 2017. Apple chose to focus on audio and music integration with the HomePod; something that the other speakers do but maybe don’t do as well.  The speaker is designed to work closely with the Apple Music ecosystem and includes hardware to deliver high quality audio. The speaker has a built-in Apple designed processor that powers the ‘magic’ behind defining features like spatial awareness to tune sound to best suit the room, the ability for multiple speakers to automatically recognize each other and work together, and Siri artificial intelligence. The HomePod can also do many of the other things we have come to love and expect from smart speaker devices like tell us the news or weather, add items to our grocery list, and provide reminders.  It can also integrate with other HomeKit enabled home automation devices to control the lights, temperature and other connected devices. If you are interested in a smart speaker, our advice is to not wait until December for the HomePod.  If you are looking to buy a smart speaker, the Amazon Echo has a huge lead in this market and it’s our current recommendation.  It is a great device with new features being added all the time.  You can pick up an Echo Dot for $50 or the full-size Echo for about $180. If you are looking for the lowest cost option and you already have nice powered speakers that can be connected with a regular 3.5 mm headphone connector or Bluetooth, you can easily hook them up to the Dot and have amazing sound and great functionality for the cost of the $50 Echo Dot.  If you are already tied into multiple Google services and prefer the Google Home, it’s about the same price as the Amazon Echo.