Siri’s slow pace

It’s WWDC week. I’m back home after a short week in San Jose. Monday’s keynote was a big event, with great news for Mac and iPad users, but I keep coming back to the most surprising “miss” in all of the announcements, and the one thing that I thought was surely a lock for the conference: SiriKit.

When I was on The Talk Show last week with Brent Simmons, John Gruber wrapped up the episode by asking about expectations for WWDC. I’m a big fan of the Amazon Echo, and I think Siri is behind in responsiveness and extensibility. I predicted at least 20 new domains and intents for SiriKit, if not a more open architecture that could grow into as big a platform as Alexa’s thousands of skills.

This week should’ve been a great one for Siri. Instead, we got not the hoped for 20 new domains but literally only 2, for taking notes and managing to-do lists. HomePod will have no support for apps at all, and it will initially ship only into a few English-speaking countries, erasing the traditional advantage Siri had over Alexa for localization.

There are good ideas in SiriKit. I’m excited about experimenting with creating “notes” in my app, and I like that in session 214 and session 228 they highlighted some of the new tweaks such as alternative app names and vocabulary. But there has to be more. Siri deserves several sessions at WWDC and much more attention from Apple.

Voice assistants represent the first real change in years to how we interact with computers, perhaps as important as the original graphical user interface. The company that created the Knowledge Navigator concept video should be firmly in the lead today. A year from now, at WWDC 2018, the lack of significant improvements to Siri will have stretched to 2 years, and that delay is going to look like a mistake even to Siri’s most vocal defenders.