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What Siri’s WWDC scoop could mean for this year’s event

Michael Simon | April 22, 2016
Siri’s role in WWDC isn’t likely going to be limited to her loose lips.

It’s become something of an April tradition: Shortly after Apple sends out the WWDC invitation, we all start trying to figure out what Tim Cook might be hiding up his sleeve. Like an optical illusion or a poorly-lit dress, we each interpret the conference logo and tagline in our own way, and by the time the keynote actually arrives, it’s been deconstructed to the point of absurdity.

But our guesses are most often wrong. Last year’s invite, for instance, with its rounded square motif and “Epicenter of change” teaser, seemed to clearly point to an overdue Apple TV refresh that opened up the platform to developers and paved the way for a subscription TV service. Instead we got Apple Music and the News app.

wwdc 2016 logo 
Credit: Apple

This year, we have something a little different to chew on. While there isn’t too much to decipher on the invite—the design theme is Swift coding and the language contains thinly veiled references to popular third-party apps—Apple gave us a juicy hint even before the emails were even set out. Earlier in the day, Siri was blabbing about the WWDC dates to anyone who asked, giving the digital assistant a rare opportunity to scoop its maker. And I think it’s safe that Siri’s role in WWDC isn’t going to be limited to her loose lips.

In the spotlight

Over the past year or so, Siri has taken on much more responsibility. On Apple Watch and Apple TV, it plays a major role in not just with intelligence but also navigation, and on the iPhone 6s, the always-on Hey Siri has given Apple’s digital assistant life beyond the limitations of its handset confines. 

But for all of its advancements, Siri is, for the most part, still a novelty. While the voice recognition technology has been refined with each new device, there are still many instances where Siri is either too slow or doesn’t have the right information, and it’s just easier to perform tasks the old-fashioned way. If Apple wants Siri to be a central part of the experience, speed and efficiency are of utmost importance. 

siri wwdc ina fried 
Credit: Ina Fried

But still, while Siri may be lagging a bit behind Google Now and Cortana, the race to build the perfect smartphone AI is still a close one, and I think this year’s WWDC is going to be a breakout moment. Letting Siri leak the dates might have been a cute gimmick (one reminiscent of the teaser to last year’s iPhone event, “Hey Siri give us a hint,” which elicited a series of playful interactions when the knowledge navigator was queried), but I also think it’s a sign that Apple is going to finally let Siri loose to take on a much bigger role in the ecosystem.

 

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