Apple is working on its own competitor to the Amazon Echo to give consumers a Siri-powered speaker for the home, according to a report from The Information today. Not only that, but Apple is also reportedly opening Siri up to third-party apps so developers can finally tap into the voice assistant. The report states that an Echo rival is a more longterm project, while creating and releasing a Siri software development kit is more likely to happen first. In fact, the Siri SDK could arrive as early as June during Apple’s annual WWDC conference. While some third-party companies have gained access to Siri, such as Yelp, they’ve only done so by way of specially crafted deals with Apple. A SDK would let any developer utilize Apple’s voice assistant.
The Siri speaker has been in development since long before the arrival of the Echo, the report states. Some confirmed features include the ability to turn on and off any appliance supported by Apple’s HomeKit platform and perform some of the tasks now associated with automated bots. Like Facebook’s M assistant and other bots whose creators are being courted by the social network, the reimagined Siri would be more helpful and less restrained to core Apple features like setting alarms and sending texts. It would also be beneficial for more than just phones and home speakers as Apple is likely to announce Siri for the Mac this year as well.
APPLE NEEDS SIRI TO BE OPEN IF IT’S TO STAY COMPETITIVE IN THE HOME
The news comes as the smart home market becomes increasingly intertwined with cloud services and artificial intelligence-powered products. Amazon is leading the charge with its Alexa assistant and the Echo. And Google last week announced its own AI assistantand home speaker; the assistant is called Google Assistant, while the speaker is Google Home, naturally. Apple has one strategic advantage: Siri is multilingual, while Alexa remains confined to the English-speaking US.
Still, Amazon has succeeded in the home in part because it openly lets Alexa connect to third-party apps and services, for hailing Uber rides, playing games, and performing all sorts of other tasks Amazon can’t accomplish on its own. Google hasn’t announced a similar SDK for the Home, but may do so later this year.
The takeaway: these speakers with AI software are useless unless developers can help them do much more than their creators are capable of. The new Google Assistant can answer follow-up questions, and it can also perform more complex tasks than Siri or Alexa. Right now, Siri tends to kick those types of queries to Microsoft’s Bing. For Apple to stay competitive in this space — and make up the substantial ground its ceded to its rivals — it has to make Siri more open and more powerful. From there, the company can try to bake it into a speaker customers may want to place in their living rooms