How Apple's Siri Speaker Can Beat Amazon Echo

Siri's potential has always seemed squandered because it has been part of a closed system. For the most part, the personal assistant couldn't integrate with any apps on your phone, limiting its usefulness. That may be about to change.

According to a report from The Information, Apple intends on opening up its AI to third-party developers through an SDK that would make their apps and services available through Siri. Apple's late to the game in this regard, as Google, Amazon and the upcoming Viv have already opened their personal assistant systems to other developers. Amazon's Alexa, for example, plays music through Spotify, triggers IFTTT recipes and can summon an Uber car.

Imagine Siri telling you the forecast from Dark Sky, reading news from the New York Times or telling you that you have new Tinder matches.

9to5Mac points out that Siri is already integrated with a few select partners. When you ask about restaurants, you'll get information from Yelp and the opportunity to make a reservation through OpenTable. But these partners are limited. An SDK would open those options to any app or service that wanted to use it. Imagine Siri telling you the forecast from Dark Sky, reading news from the New York Times or telling you that you have new Tinder matches. All the developers would have to do is implement the SDK.

MORE: Siri Killer? What You Need to Know About Viv

The Information's report also suggests that Apple has a hardware competitor to Echo and Google Home in the works, moving Siri out of the phone and into the household. The company has allegedly been working on the project, which includes a speaker and HomeKit integration, since before the Echo was announced.

Still, the Echo has a head start on its competitors, not only in its time on the market but also with the number of third-party services and apps that tap into the Alexa voice assistant that powers Amazon's speaker. Google hopes to differentiate its similar-sounding Google Home device by leveraging the search giant's knowledge graph that can recognize people, places and things as well as how they relate to one another. The challenge for Apple will be to find a way of distinguishing its own voice-powered speaker.

That could involve facial recognition technology, according to a subsequent report by Cnet, which says Apple may put a camera into its Echo competitor. The camera would be able to detect who's in the room, using that information to pull up preferences like playlists and preferred lighting. Don't expect such a device before 2017, Cnet's report says.

We expect to hear more about Apple's plans for Siri at its WWDC conference starting June 13. Rumors are also swirling that Siri will finally come to the Mac desktops and laptops, and that we'll see upgrades to MacBooks and a new version of OS X.

Andrew E. Freedman

Andrew E. Freedman is an editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming as well as keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag, Complex, Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag among others.