WWDC 2016

Siri delight at Apple's developer conference

Potential of Siri on third-party apps is tremendous, but it is still early days yet

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking during the keynote address at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco last week.
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking during the keynote address at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco last week.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) last week was headlined by upcoming major updates of the company's various operating systems (OS) - namely, iOS 10, macOS Sierra, watchOS 3 and the new tvOS.

But the highlight for Singapore developers could be the announcement that Apple is opening up its virtual voice assistant Siri to third-party developers under iOS 10. This means apps can have native Siri support.

According to Mr Honey Mittal, mobile vice-president of Singapore-based travel meta-search engine Wego, Siri's integration for developers will be "a pretty big thing and game changer".

He said: "It can be like 'Hey Siri, can you Wego Singapore to Hong Kong for this weekend?'."


For a video-streaming app like Singapore-based Viki, Siri integration may allow users to search and play shows that they want, without starting the Viki app itself, according to Mr Jonathan Ong, Viki's iOS engineer.

Singaporean developer Muh Hon Cheng, who created the popular transit app SG NextBus, is also excited about Siri's third-party integration.

"You can ask Siri when the next bus is arriving," said Mr Muh, referring to his app.

While the potential of Siri on the third-party apps is immense, it is still too early to tell. The Siri beta developer kit currently supports only six domains, including ride bookings. But it does not support public transport-related information.

"Even if the developer kit does not support (public transport information) now, it might in future versions," said Mr Muh.

Siri will also make its debut on Apple's upcoming desktop computer operating system, macOS Sierra. Thus, a user can just speak to his PC to turn up its volume or adjust its screen brightness.

There will also be expanded Siri searches on the new tvOS, so you can ask Siri to look for specific content on your Apple TV, such as documentaries about cars.

"It's great to see Apple extend Siri to developers, as it means many more types of interactions will be integrated with its virtual personal assistant," said Mr Brian Blau, research vice-president at technology research firm Gartner.

Other features that interest local developers include Apple Maps and Messages that allow third-party extensions in iOS 10.

Wego can make good use of the third-party extensions in Apple Maps and Messages, according to Mr Mittal. "A simple example would be having all the hotels Wego has, show their pricings and locations on Apple Maps," he said.

He can also see the new Messages allowing users to book hotels and flights with Wego in future, without leaving the messaging app.

Gartner's Mr Blau feels apps today are "silo-ed" experience, with each app having its own unique interface. But the new Siri and Messages third-party extensions will allow an interface that flows better from one app to another.

"All the (WWDC) announcements are very targeted towards the users. They are meant to make the life of an Apple product user much better," said Viki's Mr Ong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Siri delight at Apple's developer conference'. Print Edition | Subscribe