Perhaps alongside the new 10.5″ iPad Pro, we may also see a new standalone Siri device during WWDC. This would be a device that runs some version of iOS for third party software integrations, and comes with powerful Beats branded speakers, and, of course, Siri. It’s been rumored to share a similar form factor with the current cylindrical Mac Pro, which would make it look a lot like Apple’s competitors from Amazon and Google, but with an Apple spin on the design. Amazon was first on this scene with it’s Echo devices, powered by their own voice assistant, Alexa, and with a wide range of third party integrations that boost the capabilities of the platform. While Google’s Home is catching up, Amazon’s Echo is still, by far, the head of the pack when it comes to third party integrations and capabilities. Plus, I think the Echo looks cooler. Google’s Home serves the same purpose, using Google’s Now technology to build a voice assistant. Both can operate devices around your home, both can answer questions as well as follow up questions, they can search the web, dim the lights, play music, and, in the case of the Alexa, even order you a pizza.
Is Siri in over its head?
Siri currently is nowhere near as powerful as Alexa or Google Now. In fact, it’s often frustrating just how limited Siri is, and how limited the third party integrations are. Apple has fallen very far behind Amazon, Google, and even Microsoft’s Cortana in these categories. When Siri was first released, it was amazing, and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Now it’s a feature no one cares about. Siri’s on your Mac, yet I’ve never seen someone use it (and I know I never have). I stopped trying to ask Siri to tell me the weather in the morning while I was doing my makeup or picking out an outfit because I just can’t get a good, reliable, detailed response. I often just unlock my phone and go check Dark Sky now, or better yet, check Carrot Weather on my Apple Watch. There’s just no reason to use Siri. Amazon’s Echo is a different story. At a friend’s house, I’ve seen him dim the lights, turn on a particular music station, and even get jokes without stopping whatever else he was doing. Just a simple command to Alexa, and we were good to go. Siri can’t even do that on an iOS device within arm’s reach. How do we expect it to be able to listen to someone over an entire room?
Apple’s been hard at work, trying to make Siri compete with Alexa, Google Now, and Cortana. The feature became less vioce oriented with AI based suggestions that consider the time, your location, and previous patterns. These features could be built into Siri’s voice interactions. Apple could also improve Siri with more contextually aware commands and language processing. Apple’s been working on this for some time now, but has let Siri go without update for too long. If Apple can catch up to Alexa and Google with their voice recognition and context aware, conversational commands, then Siri could be ready for the home. With tight integration of HomeKit, the Apple ecosystem including macOS, iOS, tvOS, and iCloud, Apple could potentially create the most robust platform of them all. But getting to that point where Siri can respond to commands and questions as well as Alexa or Google Now might be a considerable undertaking.
Let’s say Apple can improve their voice recognition, commands, and contextual awareness. Let’s say Siri is ready to compete with Alexa, Google Now, and Cortana. What would a standalone Siri device look like? According to a number of rumors, including KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo, say the device will look similar to the Mac Pro. It’ll use Beats technology and be based on iOS, so it’ll be Apple’s first new iOS based device since the Apple TV. It will apparently have one subwoofer and 7 tweeters, which will allow it to sound good in a large room. Unlike Amazon’s latest Echo device, the Echo Show, it will not have a screen. We haven’t heard much else, and even Kuo says there’s only a 50% chance that Apple will reveal a standalone Siri device in June.
Unless Apple has made some Siri-ous improvements to Siri, it’s not ready to compete with other devices. Kuo only thinks there’s a 50% chance we’ll see such a device, and we haven’t seen a single leak that would show off the new product in drawings or photos. We haven’t seen anything related to this yet. So, without being too forward, why are we even talking about this?
WWDC is the time for Apple to reveal new hardware and software before it’s released. The idea is that Apple can reveal this new hardware or software and by the time it’s released, third party developers will have already made integrations and apps for it. If Apple wants to release a great new Siri enabled product that can challenge Amazon and Google, they’ll need third party support. So, while we haven’t seen leaks of this new device yet, and analysts aren’t confident the device will be revealed, WWDC is the perfect time for Apple to reveal such a product. After this, they could either reveal it in the fall and wait until spring to release it, already putting them much further behind their competitors, or, they could wait even longer, and reveal the device during the next WWDC. WWDC 2017 would be the best time to reveal a standalone Siri device, but Apple might not be quite ready to do it yet. We’ll only have to wait until June 5th to find out.
- Roger Fingas, AppleInsider: “Apple ‘finalizing’ design of Amazon Echo rival based on Siri.”
- Neil Hughes, AppleInsider: “Apple expected to reveal new 10.5-inch iPad Pro at WWDC.”
- Chris Smith, BGR: “Apple’s new Siri speaker reportedly just got the green light.”
- Chris Smith, BGR: “This may be Apple’s first brand new iOS device since 2015.”