Yes, Xerox had a point and click interface before Mac. So did Apple’s own and very expensive Lisa. But the Mac brought point and click mainstream and 10 years later Microsoft followed suit with point and click and Windows 95. Then along came the touchscreen interface on iPhone and the rest is history. Will history repeat itself with talking computers?
The iPhone’s Siri interface has been around awhile and frankly has yet to take the world by storm. After all, it took a number of years for the great unwashed masses of feature phone users to adopt to Apple’s insanely simple touchscreen devices, so why should we be surprised that Siri works better as a gee whiz technology presentation than in real life?
2016 might be the year of the voice interface breakout. Siri’s talking interface has been copied and improved upon by Apple’s mainline nemesis competitors, Google, Microsoft, and even Amazon. Critics applaud Amazon’s new Echo device, and the Alexa talking assistant (which seems more designed to listen to you, take notes, and prepare something to sell rather than be all that helpful) which is tethered to the living room via an internet connection and electric power.
On the other hand, Siri is remote and mobile, currently residing on iPhone and iPad, but soon to make a voice for itself on the Mac. Apple has been quietly shoring up its cloud services and purchased a few artificial intelligent companies so we can expect future versions of Siri to be much smarter, more interactive, and able to understand context on a per-user basis. That is huge.
Let The Battle Begin
No one knows exactly how the upcoming voice wars and artificial intelligence battles will play out but one thing is for certain. Apple is not out of the game. Siri remains the most well known artificial intelligent voice activated personal assistant and– assuming the rumors are accurate– Apple makes Siri useful for third party app developers, we will see rapid growth in capability and functionality from all major players.
To box, or not to box is the main question. Will Apple design, build, and sell a Siri box to compete with Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home (that company cannot come up with a personalized name for anything) or whatever Microsoft decides to copy with Cortana? Or, will Apple upgrade Apple TV to a new home version that is tethered to the TV and always on, but couple with an improved Siri
interface for iPhone, iPad, and Mac?
Personally, I expect Apple to incorporate Siri’s advanced features into Apple TV, ensure they’re available as ‘always on’ options in future iPhones and iPads (and the Mac), but a standalone Siri box is a possibility, despite the advent of device fatigue.
The talking interface– whereby we speak and Siri responds– marks a dramatic change in how we interface with computer devices, which, until now, have largely been based on clicks (keyboard, trapped, and mouse) and touch, both of which are nearly silent to very silent. Will Siri gain acceptance in the work environment, schools, and the home? Or, just the latter, as more of a personal Q & A device?
Another question to consider is how Siri will be differentiated from Amazon’s Echo device, Google’s yet-another-name device, and Microsoft’s Cortana? Differentiation is a key component of product marketing and Apple has this age old tendency to let some technologies wither on the vine awhile as it readies something even better and more insanely great than the last iteration.
I’m tired of waiting. Come one, Siri. It’s time to speak up.