Siri was not the first voice based assistant that the world had seen, but when it launched in 2011, it quickly became the rage. Apple allowed people to ‘talk’ to Siri and even infused a dose of personality in the manner with which it answered the questions. People were trying to see what it could do, how many inside jokes it would understand and play around with core functionality.
Unfortunately for Apple, though, it has ceded a lot of ground to its rivals in the voice assistant space. Google Now is incredibly better at speech recognition, handling complex questions and proactively providing information. Microsoft’s Cortana is also incredibly powerful although the lack of any significant market share in mobile has hurt its visibility.
The real winner in this game, though, has been Amazon. Bezos and Co. pulled out a real surprise when they put their artificial intelligence powered assistant, Alexa, in an unassuming speaker box and started selling it to the world. In hindsight, Amazon showed real foresight as it sought to conquer the myriad of IoT devices by providing a central, friendly and easy method to control them. Of course, this meant opening up the SDK to third party developers and allowing them to bake in functionality no one could possibly have even imagined when all of this began.
The Inevitable Response
Everyone in the tech industry was just waiting for Google and Apple’s response since there was no way that they were going to cede an upcoming space like smart home to Amazon. Google announced its own AI infused speaker last week, Google Home, and now with WWDC around the corner, Apple is expected to outline its response to the Echo.
The immediate play is expected to be to open up Siri to third-party developers and allow it to accomplish things beyond texting and taking reminders. Apple had actually announced the HomeKit platform a couple of years back to allow IoT manufacturers to work with iOS but it never really caught on.
Even now, only a handful of devices exists that have baked in iOS functionality. Allowing greater access to Siri could be a game changer as hardware in the form of the iPhone already exists everywhere.
Of course, the success of Alexa has shown that people want a dedicated device at the center of their homes that is easily accessible to all members of the household. A phone is a much more personal device which only the owner has access to. Multiple phones can be set up to access the smart devices inside the home but that is often too technically demanding and cumbersome to actually take place.
This leads to the second part of the response. A speaker with Siri inside to power your smart home. Knowing Apple, the speaker will be a high-end one that promises better sound than its competitors, may include a charging dock and would work seamlessly with iPhones and iPads.
Siri Needs To Get Better
Ever since Google decided to enter the mobile space, things have been a little chilly between Apple and the search giant. This was one of the main reasons that Apple decided to go with Bing for any heavy lifting that Siri needed to do.
In most cases, it works okay, but Apple needs to make Siri smarter and more capable if it wants to occupy a central position in future smart homes. Simply handing off queries to Bing will not cut it anymore.
Apple also needs to leverage the advantages that Siri has over its competitors. Name recognition, multi-language capabilities, compatible hardware all over the world and the Apple brand behind it.
With WWDC around the corner in June, we do not have long to find out if Apple really wants to unleash Siri’s true potential.