Apple is just days away from launching its Amazon Echo and Google Home competitor — the HomePod speaker. It is a $349 Siri-powered speaker that focuses on music playback quality instead of fancy and sophisticated smart home features.

That's not to say the HomePod won't compete with its rivals in that department. Apple knows that to stand out, its product needs to have a unique selling proposition, and that's music.

Apple Enters The Smart Speaker Race

Amazon is currently the top dog in the smart speaker landscape and Google is slowly trying to catch up. However, Apple stands a chance to get some traction in the race because its fans are some of the most loyal in the world. If they don't own a smart speaker, they'd probably opt for Apple's offering, regardless of the cost.

To kickstart the launch of the HomePod, Apple offers a whopping 50 percent discount toward a purchase of the speaker — for Apple employees, that is. Several of them have taken to Twitter to share news of Apple's generosity, and Mark Gurman of Bloomberg has confirmed the discount. That means Apple employees can purchase the HomePod for just $175.

Why This Is A Good Move

It's actually a pretty smart move. By offering the smart speaker at a reduced price, Apple employees can familiarize themselves with the device and thus have real-world experience with the product — making them better-equipped in dealing with potential complaints from users once it launches on Feb. 9.

This also wouldn't be the first time for Apple to offer huge discounts for employees. In 2015, Apple gave a similar 50 percent discount to its workers with the Apple Watch — stainless steel or a Sports-focused model.

Apple HomePod

HomePod sales went live last Friday ahead of its release date. The speaker boasts high-end audio components including a multi-tweeter and microphone arrays, in addition to advanced algorithms designed to deliver full sound anywhere it's placed in the room.

As mentioned, HomePod includes built-in Siri functionalities, which will enable users to spit out certain voice commands, as they would on an iPhone. However, the extent of this remains to be seen. There's also HomeKit integration, which makes the speaker compatible with smart home accessories.

Thoughts about the Apple HomePod? As always, if you have anything to share, feel free to sound them off in the comments section below!

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