Apple plans to open up its Siri personal digital assistant application to third-party developers to extend its use, while also working to develop its own Siri-based version of Amazon's Echo voice-controlled digital assistant for home and office use.
The rumored Siri developments were reported May 24 by The Washington Post, which said the plans came from a person with direct knowledge of the alleged plans. Interestingly, Apple could be a bit late to the Echo market. In March, rumors began flowing that Google was working on its own such Echo competitor in a voice-activated product that is under development.
Apple could divulge its plans to open Siri up to outside developers at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) from June 13 to 17 in San Francisco, The Post reported.
By opening up its Siri technology to outside developers, it could gain new features and capabilities faster and help Apple expand its market for Siri-based products. "At the very least, these rumors could show that Apple is finally willing to build a broader coalition as it looks for more worlds to conquer," the story reported.
Apple did not immediately respond to an email inquiry from eWEEK seeking comments about the reports.
The original Amazon Echo debuted in late 2014, but initially, it was available by invitation only, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The Echo voice-activated personal digital assistant became available to all customers in June 2015.
This past March, Amazon launched its latest Echo family members, the smaller Echo Dot and the Amazon Tap, both of which include Alexa voice-recognition capabilities. The devices extended the Echo lineup with new ways for users to manage their lives through electronic personal digital assistants that can help them simplify tasks and get more accomplished.
The Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa voice recognition to help users with a variety of requests, from playing music to controlling smart home devices and more.
The Amazon Tap is more specialized, serving as an Alexa-enabled portable Bluetooth and WiFi speaker that users can activate with a tap of its microphone button to then ask for music, news reports, Web searches or more, using verbal commands and Alexa. The Echo Dot is priced at $89.99 and is exclusively for Amazon Prime members, while the Amazon Tap is priced at $129.99.
The Echo Dot uses the Alexa Voice Service to play streaming music from Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. The device can also function as an alarm clock and can control smart home devices. The Dot features a built-in speaker, which can be configured to operate through a home WiFi network, and its companion Alexa App is compatible with Fire OS, Android and iOS devices. The app is also accessible via a Web browser. The device is designed to accept voice commands from users from across a room using its far-field voice-recognition capabilities, even while music is playing. The Echo Dot looks like a hockey puck, measuring 3.3 inches around and 1.5 inches tall, and weighing about 8.8 ounces.
The Amazon Tap portable Bluetooth and WiFi speaker system includes dual stereo speakers with Dolby processing and 360-degree omni-directional audio, as well as up to nine hours of use on a full charge. Users can stream music from their smartphones or tablets with the device, which can be connected to WiFi or a mobile hotspot. The Tap is 6.2 inches tall and 2.6 inches around, and weighs 16.6 ounces.
The original Amazon Echo sells for $179.99.