‘Bloomberg’: Apple has started manufacturing the Siri smart speaker

Apple has started manufacturing the long-rumored Siri-powered smart speaker, according to Bloomberg, quoting unnamed “people familiar with the matter.” The article says the company will debut it at next week’s Worldwide Developer Conference.

But hold onto your credit cards. Bloomberg says the gadget (pictured in a facial mock-up from Cult of Mac) won’t be available until later in the year. The Siri speaker will come to the market behind Amazon’s Echo and Alphabet’s Google Home but Apple will differentiate it by offering virtual surround sound technology and deep integration with Apple’s product lineup.

Bloomberg says that introducing a speaker would serve two main purposes: providing a hub to automate appliances and lights via Apple’s HomeKit system, and establishing a bulwark inside the home to lock customers more tightly into Apple’s network of services.

Rumors about a Siri speaker have floated around for months. A year ago, CNET said the “smart speaker” that could be "self aware" and detect who’s in a room using facial recognition technology (the Sellers Research Firm -- that’s me -- says, cool as that would be, it won't happen). Quoting unnamed “people familiar with Apple’s plans” the article said this would let the device automatically pull up a person's preferences, such as the music and lighting they like.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks an Apple device will sport one woofer and seven tweeters for rich sound and will be powered by a custom ARM processor equal in power to at least the A8 CPU on the iPhone 6 or newer. With these features, Kuo anticipates that Apple will sell the Siri speaker system at a higher price than Amazon Echo prices and will position the produce for the high-end market with a better entertainment experience and superior sound quality.