Forget VR, AR, MR, 100 percent bezelless or foldable smartphones. So-called smart speakers appear to have become the tech industry’s “next big thing” all of a sudden, in a market trend pioneered by Amazon, with Google quick to provide stiff competition, and now Microsoft and Apple strongly rumored to throw their hats in the ring sometime this year.

While the Redmond-based giant reportedly has Samsung subsidiary Harman in its corner to guarantee professional sound quality, Cupertino should rely on its own audio-focused Beats daughter company for voice-controlled music streaming in your living room.

That no-brainer piece of gossip comes from once revered tipster Sonny Dickson, who also hints at a “variant” of iOS running on Apple’s impending Echo challenger. This thing is “expected to be marketed as a Siri/AirPlay device”, with “designs” being purportedly finalized as we speak.

Sounds like the speaker/smart home hub’s development, which probably kicked off last year, may still take a few months. But Dickson believes a WWDC announcement in early June is “possible”, though far from guaranteed.

As far as esthetics go, the unnamed “Alexa competitor” is tipped to include a “concave top with the controls”, overall resembling the Mac Pro “style”, and finding inspiration in the UE Boom’s mesh “style.” But will it have a screen? Spotify or Pandora integration in addition to obligatory Apple Music support? Multiple accounts, like the Google Home? Any unique Siri tricks up the sleeve? We could find out in a little over a month… or not.

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