If recent rumors are to be believed, Siri will come to the Mac this year. Next Monday, Apple will take to the stage at its Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) and outline its next software updates, among which the company may announce a Mac software update that enables support for the personal assistant. Siri gets a bad rap for being simple and unsophisticated, and it could do with improvements, but the basic functionality could change how people interact with their Macs.
Of course, voice recognition on computers is nothing new. Current Macs come with built-in dictation software, so people can write out essays simply by speaking. This isn’t quite personal assistant territory, though. You can’t ask dictation to book an appointment, or check the scores.
Microsoft kind of beat Apple to the punch on the personal assistant front by introducing Cortana with Windows 10. The software takes its name from an artificial intelligence character in the Halo video game series, but doesn’t quite offer the same level of interactivity as the character. Then again, Halo is set several centuries in the future, so Microsoft may get a free pass on that.
Cortana doesn’t mean ditching the keyboard and mouse for a microphone. Instead, it offers an additional way to get simple tasks done, either by pressing the blue icon on the taskbar or saying “hey Cortana.” The software is always listening for its command just in case, which means someone sitting on the other side of a room from a computer can shout commands to do something without standing up.
Bringing Siri to the Mac could offer the same advantages. On the iPhone, Apple Watch, and Apple TV, Siri already helps for situations where typing out a command is inconvenient. With the Apple Watch, raising the wrist and saying “hey Siri, what’s the weather like tomorrow?” brings up a 10 day forecast.
There’s no need to get out a phone, fiddle around with unlock screens, or even drop what you’re holding. If there’s an iMac in the corner of a room, Siri on Mac would eliminate the need to walk over, find the right icon, and load up the weather forecast.
There are even rumors that Apple could bring an application programming interface (API) to Siri. This would allow for complex commands that invoke third-party apps, like “play the top 50 on Spotify” or “set up a Skype call with my mom.”
Siri won’t replace existing forms of interaction. Instead, it will serve as a useful addition to situations where other inputs are inconvenient. Siri doesn’t have to complete every task in the world to change how people use Macs, and if Apple can improve the quality of its responses to help complete even more small tasks, it could have a major impact.