Apple's Transition of Siri to Desktops Could Happen Soon

An Apple patent shows how Apple could bring Siri, with its known conveniences and potential new functionalities, to OS X devices.


Apple has filed a patent suggesting Siri may soon make the leap from iPhones to desktops.

First reported by Apple Insider, the 92-page patent was filed Feb. 5 and titled an "intelligent digital assistant in a desktop environment."

A user can interact with the assistant via dictation or command modes, or by dragging objects onto the assistant's icon that can—at your command—be sorted by instruction.

"In some embodiments," the patent states, the assistant can be "invoked to cooperate with the user to complete a task that the user has already started on a user device."

The patent explains that natural language processing has advanced to where commands can be spoken, instead of performed through menus and programmed commands—and that digital assistant systems can improve a user's confidence in a system's capabilities. Further, the more advanced capabilities of desktops, laptops and tablets (compared to smartphones), the patent said, will allow digital assistants to perform "more complex and sophisticated interactions."

The desktop assistant could provide responses in visual, audio, music, animation or other formats and receive commands based on "past and present interactions between the user and the user interfaces provided on the user device, the underlying operating system and/or other applications executing on the user device."

Drawings included in the patent show, among other things, the ability to tap an icon on a touch-screen and speak an email aloud, instead of typing it, as well as to say things like, "Make this [email] urgent."

Should the user receive an email with a video attached, he or she could tell the assistant, "Play the movie on the big screen."

"I've been expecting an incorporation of a Siri-style interface in OS X for a while now, because there are some things that Siri, like Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana, just do better," Ezra Gottheil, principal analyst with Technology Business Research, told eWEEK. "It's so easy to say, 'Have lunch with Sheila on Tuesday.' Or 'Call Michelle later.' There's just no interface that's easier than that."

Apple Insider has also been anticipating Siri's move to the desktop, since Apple in Feburary placed an ad for user-interface engineers who could make "the next big thing even bigger."

Apple introduced a voice-dictation feature in 2012, with the introduction of its OS X Mountain Lion, but it stopped short of including full Siri functionality.

The patent could indicate that Apple's next laptops and desktops will include touch-screens—or at least touch-screen–like functionality.

In late 2012, Apple filed a patent for "multi-functional keyboard assemblies" that include touch-sensitive "keystacks." Swiping across the L, J and K keys for example, could turn the pages into an ebook.

An upcoming BlackBerry smartphone, the Passport, similarly features touch-sensitive keys that respond to swipes, enabling a user to, for example, select a suggested word and brush it up, so to speak, toward the display—just like users on the touch-screen–based BlackBerry Z10 can.

Gottheil believes touch-screens on Macs and MacBooks are unlikely.

"Steve Jobs did a lot of dissing of that capability, which is really only a handy feature if the device is being adapted for one-handed use," said Gottheil. "Where I think you will see Apple make a move is to make a better integration of the keyboard into the tablet. It wouldn't take much to modify iOS to make it more keyboard-friendly."

He added, "Apple patents everything. [The patent] … doesn't meaningfully increase our knowledge of what Apple intends to do."

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