Apple reportedly working on expanding Siri partnerships, iWatch support

Apple is reportedly looking at expanding Siri partnerships, potentially for iOS 8, as is a small screen version of the interface that could work on something the size of the rumored iWatch. Amir Efrati and Jessica Lessin writing for The Information:

Apple is working on ways to improve the search capabilities of Siri, its virtual assistant, by allowing it to point users to third-party apps, according to people familiar with the effort. That requires Siri to better understand what each app does. Today, Siri can do things like search for the weather or look up information over the Web. But iPhone users can’t ask Siri to book a car or hotel reservation, or send a message through a messaging app other than iMessage. Apple has struck specific deals to allow Siri users to buy movie tickets through Fandango and book restaurant reservations through OpenTable, but the goal is to make such functionality possible without custom, one-off business deals.

There's the old customer insight play but intermediating search in general has a ton of value beyond direct monetization. Owning the interface, after all, means owning the app experience.

Do expanded partnerships make sense? It's what Apple did in iOS 6 for movies, sports, and more. It's probably also a better short-term strategy than an open application programming interface (API) which is also apparently still under development/consideration.

Surfacing a Siri API remains non-trivlal. (For a humorous blast-from-the-past see Guy English's A Dynamic Siri piece, written shortly after launch.) Right now Apple does partnerships with select apps, like Yelp and Open Table. Not only would an open API destroy the value of those partnerships, the could result in a lot of collisions. For example, what happens if you want to add an appointment but have 3 Siri-enabled Calendar apps installed? Which one catches the request?

Expanding the partnerships is a middle-ground, but, to use the messaging example, it'll be tough to juggle who gets in. Would WhatsApp? Facebook Messenger? How about Microsoft's Skype or Google's Hangouts? Seems like any large scale partnership play would inevitably lead to cries of unfairness and give Apple exactly the wrong type of attention.

Either way, expanded partnerships or API, until there's concrete information on how it will work there's not much to do but contemplate the problems.

Personally, a rumor I'd much rather see is for on-device Siri natural language parsing. Anyone else have anything else they'd like to see in Siri for iOS 8?

Source: The Information (Pay-walled)

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • "Owning the interface, after all, means owning the app experience." And that's why I think there is a distinct possibility that Apple may never fully open up the Siri API. Most users won't be able to distinguish between the Siri experience presented by iOS and the Siri experience presented by an app. If users have bad experiences with spammy apps trying to get you to do in-app purchasing or presenting bad information, then it will make Siri, iOS, and Apple look bad. And as we all know, Apple is an "experience company" that uses integrated hardware and software to deliver that experience.
  • "Do expanded partnerships make sense?" I think Apple will continue to cherry pick the Yelps and Open Tables for building Siri partnerships. Exactly as they're doing now on iOS mobile devices and Apple TV, and I'd expect them to eventually do the same on OS X and "iWatch." And why would Apple not allow just any random developer to build a Siri interface for their app? Because I think Siri could eventually begin to replace much of the current multi-touch UI for iOS and for its apps. Not this year, but maybe in 3 or 4 years. Apps could just become services that iOS trusts and depends on like system calls. Apps would not have their own interfaces. iOS would handle every aspect of the user interface and apps would simply provide iOS with data to display or to enunciate. Think "Her." In that particular future, the concept of apps has disappeared entirely (except for games.) All interactions are handled by the OS, there is no tapping of icons or searching for apps because you have too many, and the hardware is just for displaying results and capturing images. No tapping, dragging, pinching, swiping. And there are no ads or in-app purchases. Theodore paid for his OS, so the developer's business model doesn't depend on spamming users. Of course, as Rene implies, that could lead to a drastic reduction in the number of apps in many infotainment categories. And Apple's own apps would have a massive advantage over any 3rd party apps, if they are even allowed to use the next-gen Siri interface. But hey, whatever is best for the user is fine with me. (Google anecdote: one of my buddies knows a designer at Google. This buddy saw "Her" with the Google designer and his Google design co-workers, and they all said "What? He's wearing glasses but they're not Google Glass..." The whole voice-only interface is kind of scary if you're a designer. But hey, there's always game design!)
  • If it's done right I think Siri can open up and be more useful. And as far as having multiple apps that are alike in functionality just have Siri ask you which one you would like to use that way there isn't any confusion. I think this would be an interesting move by Apple. The one thing that will make this successful is going to be execution. Not only on how Apple will implement Siri but also in Siri being able to understand the user better then what it does now. Sent from the iMore App
  • "For example, what happens if you want to add an appointment but have 3 Siri-enabled Calendar apps installed? Which one catches the request?" Maybe this is where having the ability to choose your own default apps comes into play. Imagine being able to set your own default apps instead of Apple's core apps, and have Siri "mine" those apps for your personal info to get you the info you need.