Siri goes viral: Apple opens up the virtual assistant to third-party developers
A move of necessity, it helps Siri better compete with Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others in the virtual assistant race.
Among the many iOS-related announcements today at Apple’s developer conference, there was the anticipated news that Siri would be opened up to third-party developers. Through a new API, developers can enable their apps to work with Siri:
For the first time, developers can build on the intelligence Siri offers and let users interact directly with apps using just their voice. SiriKit helps developers easily design their apps to work with Siri for messaging, phone calls, photo search, ride booking, personal payments and workouts, or use Siri to control CarPlay apps, access climate controls or adjust radio settings within automakers’ apps.
Apple Senior VP Craig Federighi referenced third-party messaging apps such as WeChat, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, and payments apps such as Square Cash, among several examples of the new Siri integration and capabilities.
Limited third-party content has been accessible in Siri, but now (with the new API) all apps could potentially be operated using Apple’s virtual assistant. The move was expected and has probably been in development for some time. Outwardly, however, it appears to be a response to Amazon and Google turning their voice assistants into platforms for third parties.
Microsoft brought Cortana to the PC with Windows 10, and Facebook is putting more resources into developing its assistant capabilities. The market is definitely heating up and becoming more competitive. Pre-acquisition Siri CEO Dag Kittlaus recently launched Viv, focusing on transactions and task completion. Accordingly, it was probably both inevitable and critical for Apple to bring greater utility to Siri via third-party app integration.
Ironically, this was the original vision for Siri: Make it the front end for the mobile experience broadly. Indeed, Kittlaus saw Siri as a replacement for conventional search.
The Siri API is part of a larger move by Apple to open up iOS. Beyond Siri, Apple has made Maps and Messages open to developers. In addition, Siri has been extended to the Mac. It also works with Car Play and on Apple TV.