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Yes Siri, no Siri, for the Mac

Speculation starts about OS X 10.9's contents, emphasis

April 30, 2013 06:40 AM ET

Computerworld - Apple's next version of OS X will probably not include Siri, the digital, voice-activated assistant embedded in the iPhone and iPad, an analyst predicted.

"Siri would require hardware modifications as well as software," noted Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research on Monday. "I expect that Siri will show up in some future edition, but I don't think it's urgent at this point."

But an expert very familiar with the insides of iOS devices disagreed.

Aaron Vronko, the CEO of Michigan-based Rapid Repair, an iPhone and iPad repair service, said there's nothing precluding Siri from running on current Mac hardware.

Most of the processing workload is done on Apple's servers, not locally, Vronko said, and Macs have audio processing chipsets -- and in the case of the Retina-equipped MacBook Pro, multiple microphones -- to match what's inside the iPhone.

Even Macs with a single microphone could handle Siri, although with less accuracy, Vronko argued. On the iPhone 5, Siri relies on three mics (the iPhone 4S, the first Apple device to support Siri, sported two) to strip out background noise and produce a higher-quality audio signal.

Yet a one-mic Mac wouldn't be a deal breaker. "You'd expect a Mac to be in a quieter environment," Vronko noted. "When you're talking [to Siri] on an iPhone, you're often in a car or in a crowd."

Although current Mac notebooks could manage Siri, there's no guarantee Apple would do so, Vronko said. "It's been hacked to work on all kinds of devices," he pointed out, even though Apple has limited it to the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, iPad Mini and third-generation and later iPad. In other words, Apple might leverage Siri to sell new Macs tweaked specifically for the service, and bar it from running on older machines.

Some have dismissed the usefulness of voice ask-and-answer technologies on personal computers, pointing out that because even notebooks are relatively immobile compared to smartphones, voice-activated queries and commands would be redundant when a keyboard is handy.

Vronko didn't buy that. "It may be important to Apple to expand the Siri ecosystem to get even more people used to the technology," he said.

Gottheil echoed that, noting the appearance of Google Now, the search giant's answer to Siri, on iOS on Monday. "[Voice] is pretty significant long term," Gottheil said. "Google Now legitimizes this interface. Apple has a lead in a clearly protectable arena, but [Google Now] legitimizes voice, sort of like when Microsoft legitimized the graphic user interface when it borrowed it from Apple, and when Apple borrowed it from [Xerox] PARC."

Talk of Siri's moving to the Mac has circulated since Apple debuted the technology in 2011 on the iPhone 4S, but the one edition of OS X shipped since then, mid-summer 2012's Mountain Lion, added only dictation.

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