Apple is planning to launch a rival to Amazon’s popular Echo connected speaker that will be powered by its voice-activated digital assistant Siri — a feature the company is also planning to finally open up to developers, sources told the Information.
The report, quoting sources with knowledge of Apple’s plans, said the Echo rival was in development long before Amazon launched its product in 2014. However, it is still not clear when Apple plans to launch the device. There is also no indication in the report what the device would look like or how much it would cost.
Last week, Google launched its own version of Amazon’s Echo called Home, which will go on sale in the coming months. This speaker will allow users to control smart home devices like lights and thermostats as well as play music, send messages, read emails and answer search queries. Meanwhile, Apple’s device is set to integrate with the company’s HomeKit standard for connect smart home devices, allowing users to control their entire suite of connected products from a single device.
The sources speaking to the Information also revealed that Apple is finally willing to open up access to Siri to third-party app developers and is working to get the software development kit (SDK) ready for its annual developers conference taking place in a few weeks.
Apple is set to announce significant changes to Siri at its Worldwide Developers Conference, which kicks off on June 13, as it seeks to keep pace with Google, Microsoft and Amazon in the area of artificial intelligence and chatbots.
Apple is widely expected to bring Siri to its desktop operating system Mac OS X for the first time. Also, giving Siri's access to third-party apps will instantly make Apple’s system exponentially more useful. At present, trying to carry out tasks like ordering an Uber using Siri is impossible, but by allowing developers to hook into the digital assistant’s features, Apple would make its system much more powerful.
It is not clear from the report just how the SDK would work if, for example, you had both Lyft and Uber installed on your iPhone and asked: “Hey Siri, order me a cab home.” According to the report: “To work with Siri, the third-party apps will need some kind of search-query box that Siri could fill with the user’s verbal request once the app is accessed.”