Apple may uveil at its annual developer conference in June a Siri-controlled smart speaker, and a report claims that it will be different than Amazon.com's Echo and Alphabet's Google Home speakers.
According to Bloomberg, the device, which will not be ready to ship until later in the year, will offer virtual surround sound technology and deep integration with Apple's product lineup.
Such a device would provide a hub to automate appliances and lights via Apple's HomeKit system, and also keep Apple's customers in touch with Apple's network of services.
The competition from Home and Echo mostly don't support services from Apple.
This year's developers conference will be the first since 2013 to introduce new hardware. Apple could announce updated iPad tablets at the conference. Planned Mac updates will include refreshed versions of the MacBook and MacBook Pro with the latest Intel processors.
The device will be a hub for Apple's HomeKit home automation system, letting users control devices such as lights, door locks and window blinds. At present, an Apple TV or iPad is required to control that equipment from outside the home or automatically. The Echo and Google Home both support third-party services and smart home appliances.