Apple doesn't openly tell the media or the public what it is working on, but in an email exchange with a fan, CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple will soon offer Italian language support for Siri, the company's AI personal assistant exclusive to the iPhone 4S.
The news was originally posted on melablog.it, an Italian blog about Apple and Apple-related news. A fan and user named Michele had written an email directly to Cook on March 8, wondering why Siri has not been able to speak Italian, despite the technology being publicly available for more than six months. Michele also complained that Italy is no longer in the group of 'first day' of a product launch.
I wonder why you do not like Italy, I think we are good customers for you but [you] do not relish this, Michele wrote (in translated Italian).
Cook responded the next day with a brief email reply, informing Michele of the good news.
I love Italy, Cook wrote. We will support Italian in SIRI this year. Tim
Two days prior to his email to Michele, Cook announced to a packed auditorium in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco that Siri would support Japanese-speaking users starting on March 7 in the iOS 5.1 update, which also fixed other minor bugs and added new iPad features. Siri now currently supports six languages, including English, British English, Australian English, German, French and Japanese.
Apple plans to support Chinese, Spanish, and Korean languages sometime in 2012, according to the company's website.
Siri, which drove sales of the iPhone 4S to make it Apple's bestselling and most popular smartphone ever, can write and send texts and e-mails, make calls, schedule meetings and reminders, play music, surf the Web, and answer complicated and context-sensitive questions. Many hoped that Apple would announce Siri on the iPad at its March 7 event, but alas, the technology will remain on the iPhone for now.
Siri was originally an iPhone application, which similarly understood conversations with its user to provide accurate answers. The app originally a spinoff of a project co-developed by SRI Ventures and the Department of Defense's innovation arm called DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The project was called CALO, which stood for Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes, and it was the largest artificial intelligence project in U.S. history, with DARPA investing $150 million into CALO over five years.
The project later raised $24 million in two rounds of funding, led by Menlo Ventures and Morgenthaler Ventures, and was launched as an iPhone app on Feb. 4, 2010. Apple quietly bought the app two months later for an undisclosed sum.
Apple has started a whole new paradigm with real AI... for the benefit of people, said Norman Winarsky, VP of SRI Ventures and the original co-founder of Siri. I think it's a great achievement of Steve Jobs and all of Apple.