Inventec has reportedly scored a deal to build Apple’s Amazon Echo-like Siri speaker device. Apple hasn’t confirmed its personal assistant appliance is a real thing yet, but evidence keeps surfacing that seems to support it’s on the way.
The latest report comes via Taiwan’s Economic Daily News. According to their supply chain sources, Inventec is either assembling components or building the entire device. The company builds Apple’s AirPods, so a working relationship is already in place.
The rumored device will use Siri as a voice interface to stream music and perform other tasks like controlling HomeKit, reporting weather and news, and performing Web searches. Assuming the so-called Siri speaker is legit, it’ll mark Apple’s move into the countertop voice assistant market where Amazon and Google already have products.
A report from the end of April claims the Siri speaker will look like a miniature Mac Pro with AirPlay support, and that it may debut during June’s Worldwide Developer Conference. That was followed a few days later by a second report saying the odds are better than 50% Apple will announce the device at WWDC, will include iPhone 6s-level processing power, and will include seven built-in tweeters and a subwoofer for high quality audio.
Such a device would compete head-to-head with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa voice interface. Apple may, however, have an advantage because Siri brings along artificial intelligence and machine learning. In contrast, the Echo’s Alexa interface only recognizes word patterns to trigger preset actions.
That’s an advantage Apple needs to exploit if it wants to draw users away from the Echo, and it needs to do it quickly. Despite Alexa’s limitations, Amazon is making it feel more AI-like by continually increasing the number of voice triggers it supports. At some point, that will feel smart enough to make real artificial intelligence and machine learning irrelevant for average users.
Still, analysts expect interest will be high for Apple’s Siri device. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects Apple will ship at least 10 million units this year.
For Apple, the Siri speaker will be another way to help lock users into its ecosystem. Considering Amazon is already doing the same with the Echo, and Google followed suit with its Home device, Apple has some catching up to do.