Apple's future Siri threat means Jobs hit the Android nuke button

By Jonny Evans

The Cupertino dream machine's rumbling into action once again, with Apple [AAPL] developing new tech which will make Siri something seriously amazing, a new patent filing claims.


Take you higher

I've had some high expectations of the Apple technology. As a beta Siri continues to learn new information about user need, expression and to increase its Nuance-licensed database of accents and sounds. What does this mean? That when it comes to the user-focused side of the software you have to expect your non-rubber-clad assistant to improve: you'll get more accurate results and more capable predictions of the questions you need to ask.

But that's not all:

This morning's published Apple patent tells us of the company's plans for an "Intelligent Automated Assistant". This tech will transform a user's voice commands into actions. While I guess this will be confined to app and iOS device control (at first), imagine the potential implications in the home consumer electronics, automotive, health and other industries.

(I have to mention the 'Crazy Apple Rumors Guide to iPhone 5' report published yesterday at this point, as the patent I'm discussing here more or less supports some of the claims I made for Siri within that post).

Straight from the filing:

"The system can be implemented using any number of different platforms, such as the web, email, smartphone and the like, or any combination thereof."

And yes, the patent does mutter a little information which suggests the company intends introducing solutions for cars and in-car entertainment. As well as within in-home electronics, heating and lighting systems and more. Get ready for all new battles in this heavily intensifying platform war.

In Apple's world, Hell froze over a long time ago on the introduction of iTunes for Windows. Hell remains frozen this time round, as the patent notes Siri could work on "different platforms used by a variety of operating systems." That's good because it means Apple is willing to bet that it will boost customer loyalty by offering support for their choice of system. It also means better integration. Indeed, you could even speculate on an iTunes store for Android devices one day, though that's a stretch.

Apple for the teacher

Patently Apple also tells us the assistant will become a teacher, noting: "Apple's patent shows us that Siri will be able to be configured to work with various new scenarios and even act as an instructor when we purchase future devices. Forget using a manual - as Siri will simply teach us what we'll want to know about our new devices when we're ready to ask it a question about a new function or feature."

It gets better. I've been anticipating Siri technology will eventually make it to the Mac platform, and this filing seems to confirm it, describing ways with which the natural language-controlled assistant could be used to, among other things, control graphical user interfaces, text and more.

Developers will be intrigued to note the description also includes discussion of an API to enable support for the software within third-party applications. That opens all kinds of doors, including notions of licensed home automation control systems compatible with devices from external vendors.

Then it gets weird. There's ideas of context-savviness within the software. It's like this, you might be having a conversation with a buddy, and mention the need to send over a text message with information about where you plan to eat that night. Siri will -- if you want it to -- listen to your banter, and will quietly put that message together for you. You won't have to, it will be done for you. You can even ask for it to be sent. And of course that's just the thin end of a wedge leading to what could become both a pervasive and discreet computing experience.

It's laughable that competitors seem to have nothing like this. All they offer are promises -- though Microsoft already boasts solutions which could pose something like a challenge. When Apple acquired Siri it acquired the world's leading voice-based assistant. This hasn't changed, even as recently as mid-December, Google was still only in position to promise delivery of a credible alternative at some future point, and that company has been acquiring a bunch of technologies it hopes to deploy as part of its response. Apple's solution is already in beta.

In short, instances and patent filings such as this one make me certain that Apple's CEO wasn't threatening to go nuclear in his war with Google. The guy had already hit the button. You ain't seen nothing yet. Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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