Siri comes to Mac and opens up to developers

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Siri is coming to the Mac, and will be opened to third-party developers on iOS.
Siri is coming to the Mac, and will be opened to third-party developers on iOS.
Photo: Apple

Big changes are coming to Siri, Apple’s intelligent voice-activated assistant. For the first time, Siri will be available on the Mac and will be opened to third-party developers on iOS.

While Siri was one of the first voice-controlled AI assistants on the market, it’s fallen behind competitors like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Now, largely because it was a closed system that worked only in Apple’s apps. Opening it to developers makes it much more functional, and presents a more serious challenge to upstarts like Viv that promise to help with a wide range of services and tasks.

Siri on Mac is good for productivity tasks like creating documents.
Siri on Mac is good for productivity tasks like creating documents.
Photo: Apple

Siri will be available in the next version of macOS, called Sierra, Apple just announced at the company’s WWDC keynote. macOS Sierra be released to the public in the fall.

Previously, Siri was available only on iOS on iPhone and iPad. Opening it up on the Mac is a significant step, expanding the number of devices the AI assistant works on. It’s also another example of Apple bringing features on iOS to its computers.

Onstage, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, showed how Siri can help with basic productivity tasks like creating a document on your computer.

Federighi performed a simple file search for some documents, which he then refined with another command to show just a subset of those documents.

“It’s the same Siri we know and love,” he said, “but it allows you to do so much more with sophisticated queries for files on the Mac.”

Federighi then performed a web search for some images and asked Siri to play some music. He did this without leaving his full-screen app.

In all, Siri appeared to be a good alternative to Finder.

Federighi also said Siri will be opened up to third-party developers on iOS. Developers will be able to use Siri for a number of tasks, including:

  • Messaging — send messages with apps like iMessage and Slack.
  • Ride hailing — call for a ride on Uber or Lyft.
  • Photo Search — search for images on Web or apps like Pinterest.
  • Workouts — Siri can call up workouts.
  • Payments — Siri can send payments to friends, say, in various payment apps.
  • VOIP calling — Siri can make VOIP calls in apps like Vonage and Skype.
  • Car — works with CarPlay.

Federighi characterized Siri for developers as an “intense API,” but was light on the details. There was no indication of how developers would tap into the API, or whether it would do things like work offline.