A well-timed leak that should assuage recent concerns about the state of Siri indicates that Apple is, predictably, working on a Siri API and a hardware companion to compete with Amazon’s Echo.
Juli Clover of MacRumors summarizes what Amir Efrati originally reported for the paywalled Information:
Citing a source with direct knowledge of Apple’s plans, the report suggests Apple is working on a Siri-based device that would include a speaker and microphone that could be used for features like listening to music, getting news headlines, and more.
In addition to developing such a device, Apple is planning to improve Siri by opening the voice assistant up to outside developers. Apple is said to be preparing to release a Siri software development kit that would allow developers to make their apps and their app content accessible through Siri voice commands. Apple plans to require developers to use the tool responsibly.
My first thought for the form factor of the always-on hardware companion for Siri was the Apple TV;1 my second thought was the AirPort base station.
But nothing in this rumour really addresses Siri’s reliability which, I believe, is currently its single biggest hurdle. Most of the time, it’s pretty fast and much more accurate than before. Yet it still occasionally gets confused by homonyms, can’t handle some accents, loses context, and sometimes silently fails for no obvious reason. Last night, I asked Siri on my Watch to remind me about something, and it “thought” for a while before telling me it couldn’t connect. I tried again on my phone and it worked perfectly.
Some of these issues could be mitigated by simply providing a textual interface for Siri. And I’d probably feel much more comfortable using it, to boot.
Update: Ben Bajarin:
Tease to our voice assistant study coming out next week. More people have/are using Siri than any other voice assistant.
Apple has a huge head-start in this space. They may appear to be resting on their laurels, but recent reports and acquisitions suggest they’re doing anything but.
Update: Jordan Nevet, VentureBeat:
Apple is working on its answer to Amazon’s Echo, the voice-activated assistant packaged inside a speaker, but it may come in the form of a refreshed Apple TV, rather than a new hardware product, VentureBeat has learned.
The company will build on its enhancements to the Apple TV announced last year, which brought the Siri virtual assistant to the set-top box. A new version of the Apple TV will solve problems with the existing box and remote control, a source familiar with the matter claims.
“They want Apple TV to be just the hub of everything,” the source told VentureBeat.
Wouldn’t it be great if the iOS 10 update simply enabled this on existing fourth-generation Apple TVs? As Apple is still a hardware-centric company, this is unlikely to happen, but one can dream. ↩︎