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Apple’s WWDC 2016 developer conference yesterday introduced iOS 10, macOS Sierra, updates to watchOS and more. But one of the main stars of the show came in the form of Siri—the company’s virtual assistant that answers queries, sends your messages, sets your calendar appointments and more. With the recently announced iOS 10, non-Apple developers are able to fold in their apps more closely with Siri. Sending a message with Siri, for example, previously could only be done via iMessage but can now utilize WeChat (and potentially) WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter direct messages and more. Third-party app support, while very convenient for users, puts Siri in a good position to take on Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. Enough so that we could see an Amazon Echo-like device when Apple introduces new hardware in September.
Amazon hasn’t seen much success in making mobile phones, where virtual assistants are typically housed, but this isn’t true for the Echo. Having released more than a year ago, Amazon’s always-on microphone for the home has sold 3 million units and spawned a sequel: the Echo Dot. In response, Google announced plans to spinoff their virtual assistant into a home device as well: the aptly named Google Home.
Enter Apple. Many have lauded the Echo for its ability to tie in numerous third-party services. Requesting an Uber, playing a song on Spotify and even starting your Hyundai car can all be done simply by asking out loud. The same can be said for Siri when using one of Apple’s latest devices—provided your iPhone is out on the table and not in your pocket. The feature is a duplication of what’s already available in the iPhone, but convenient for those who want to access Siri without the phone nearby.
With many curious as to what new product category Apple could enter (if any), a device similar to Google Home and Amazon Echo could very well be it. There’s likely overlap between the amount of Echo users and iPhone users. Giving iUsers an Apple solution to the virtual assistant could allow for tighter integration and a better experience. Echo may be useful, but it doesn’t allow you to message friends, or receive calls.
Amazon Echo Dot
A Siri Home device wouldn’t be perfect. Apple still has yet to imbue Siri with useful predictive abilities aside from guessing phone numbers based on emails you’ve traded. iOS 10 users still can’t talk with Siri via text like Google’s assistant and Allo. But Apple’s inclusion of Siri in the Apple TV and now in macOS Sierra show the company isn’t abandoning the vocal assistant anytime soon. The ability to access third-party apps with only one’s voice is a bold first step into making Siri more capable, and we could see more features added with the (potential) release of Cupertino’s Siri Home product.