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Apple’s HomePod speaker gets February launch date

(CNN Money) -- Nearly nine months after it was announced, Apple's HomePod finally has a launch date.

On Tuesday, the tech giant said its new smart speaker will hit stores on Friday, February 9. Pre-orders start this Friday in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

The HomePod was first unveiled last year at Apple's annual developer conference in June. Although it was supposed to be available in December, the company pushed the shipping date to early this year.

The 7-inch tall speaker ($349) can play music and podcasts, read you the news and control other connected devices in the home via built-in Siri voice assistant.

Apple HomePod is the company's first major new hardware launch since the Apple Watch, which debuted in 2015.

With the launch, Apple is taking on existing smart speakers, such as the Amazon Echo ($100) and Google Home ($129).

Related: Apple unveils an Amazon Echo competitor

While Apple's Siri voice assistant came early to the market, the company is late to the smart speaker trend. Amazon invented the category in 2015 with its line of Echo speakers, and there are now similar options available from Google and Microsoft.

HomePod will be available in France and Germany this spring.