• New HomePod speaker brings digital assistant into homes
  • Advances in machine learning seen in many product updates

Apple Inc.’s first major new product for two years, the HomePod speaker, marks the biggest effort yet from the technology company to use its Siri digital assistant to keep customers wedded to a growing palette of products and services.

The smart speaker works by talking to an updated Siri that better understands music-related requests, Apple said during its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California.

“Apple is a company that deeply cares about music and wants to deliver an audio experience in the home,” Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang. “We feel like we reinvented that in the portable player area, and we think we can reinvent it in the home as well.”

Cook and other Apple executives showed off several additional new Siri functions, highlighting how the company has been working to catch up with similar offerings from Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.

“It’s clearly about the hardware but also making Siri more obvious to consumers so you can see where she’s getting smarter,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies. “Apple today was much more focused on talking about it.”

Amazon’s Echo, introduced in 2014, helped put the e-commerce giant’s Alexa virtual assistant in millions of homes, while Alphabet’s Google Home serves as a new voice-based gateway to the search company’s services. The HomePod will take Siri from iPhones into more homes and turn it into more of a hub for Apple’s other products and services.

“For us it’s not about being first,” Cook said in the interview. “It’s about being the best and giving the user an experience that delights them every time. And so we don’t let that impatience result in shipping something that’s just not great.”

WWDC is Apple’s annual pitch to software engineers to continue building programs for the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch….