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What's up for Apple in 2012?

Ryan Faas | Dec. 30, 2011
2011 was a big year for Apple.

It's also likely that Apple will begin linking Siri to additional reference and recommendation services. Currently, Siri can get information from Wolfram Alpha, Yelp, and Google Maps. As the brouhaha over Siri's inability to locate abortion services proved, Siri is at the mercy of the services it connects with. No doubt, Apple is working to identify and develop partnerships with additional content sources, particularly in regional and local markets around the world. The company may even be looking at buying one or more outright. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Apple allow users to select which services Siri uses to locate information or in what order it should query those sources.

Beyond putting more data at Siri's virtual fingertips, Apple will also likely extend the technology's capabilities in terms of what data and apps Siri can interact with on an iOS device. Any new capabilities would be implemented in iOS itself or with Apple's apps at first. That said, I'm sure Apple will eventually open up at least a few APIs so developers can plug into Siri in a variety of ways. I expect this will be a key feature for developers in iOS 6.

One big question: Will Apple eventually introduce additional voice/personality packs for Siri? Given that Apple has already done so to some extent with the localized language support in the Siri beta, it seems almost certain that the company can offer additional choices, just as most GPS navigation systems do. The questions are: When will we see them, and will they be free?

As with developer access to Siri, I'm betting that those options will arrive with iOS 6 and that users will be able to purchase them like ringtones.

iOS 6

It seems a foregone conclusion that Apple will release iOS 6 in 2012, given that the company has put out iOS updates on a yearly basis since the iPhone shipped in 2007. Probably the biggest changes will center around Siri's expanded feature set, but Apple is likely to have some other surprises in store.

Two particular areas where Apple may shake things up involve maps/navigation and search. Over the past couple of years, Apple has quietly been building better map-related features; those efforts have included the creation of its own Wi-Fi hotspot database. And it's been buying mapping software vendors, indicating an eventual shift away from Google Maps. Likewise, particularly with Siri's search-related capabilities, Apple may look to develop relationships that reduce its reliance on Google overall.

Apple will probably also improve the notification center introduced in iOS 5 this fall. For people who have been critical of Apple's decision not to allow Android-like widgets on the home screen, this may be the company's first step in that direction. The Weather and Stocks apps currently can display more information than just alerts, and it's reasonable to assume Apple could expand this type of display.

 

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