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Amazon expected to counter Apple's AirPlay 2 with Echo-based whole-home audio

In a potential shot at Apple's AirPlay 2 as well as speaker maker Sonos, Amazon is rumored to be preparing its own multi-speaker, multi-room music technology, which could come to existing Echo devices via a software update.




German blog Caschys reported this week that Amazon completed testing on the new feature, which is expected to launch soon for Alexa speakers.

The feature will reportedly allow users to stream to multiple rooms simultaneously, and also to group speakers together for both music listening and voice commands.

Apple has long offered AirPlay on its own devices, such as Apple TV and AirPort Express, as well as third-party speakers. It also offers multi-speaker support when music is streamed from a Mac.

But iPhones and iPads will also gain multi-room streaming this fall with the launch of iOS 11 and new AirPlay 2 speakers. Apple has also said that some existing AirPlay speakers can be updated to AirPlay 2 via firmware updates.




AirPlay 2 will also be a centerpiece for Apple's upcoming HomePod speaker, which will also boast multi-room and multi-speaker support. The $349 speaker and Siri listening device is set to launch this December.

Amazon, meanwhile, has been making inroads with its Echo devices, featuring the Alexa personal assistant. Most recently, the company launched the Echo Show, a model with a touchscreen display.

But while Amazon's Echo lineup is capable of playing music, the hardware has been pushed as a handy Alexa assistant first and foremost. Apple, meanwhile, has taken the opposite approach with HomePod, presenting it as a quality music speaker first and foremost.

Apple's approach could explain Amazon's push for multi-speaker, multi-room music support, countering one of the key selling points of the HomePod months before it finds its way into consumers' homes. In addition, Amazon is said to also be working on a new music-focused Echo with better speakers, which could more directly compete with Apple's HomePod.