3 innovations the Apple Siri speaker needs to have

To beat Amazon and Google, a Siri speaker better get smart.

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Apple

The name “iPhone” is part of the public lexicon, as common as Kleenex and Google. Yet, there might come a day when that iconic brand name starts to seem outdated.

If rumors about an Apple Siri speaker are true, the day could come sooner than any of us expect.

As a speaker, this device will play music but also talk to you, similar to what you can do with the Amazon Echo or Google Home speakers. It means you don’t need to fish out your phone to check the score of an NBA Playoffs game or get a weather report. You just ask by voice.

However, if the speaker could replace your phone, it will need to offer much more than just a few basic voice-activated features. (It’s also worth noting that we’ll also need one at home, in the office, the car, and everywhere in between. And, there will be many times when we still want a phone to play games, text with family, and tap up emails on a plane. Also, a few die-hards will probably not give up their phone anytime soon no matter what.)

Smart speakers could handle home control functions, tell you about appointments, fetch an Uber when the A.I. realizes you have a meeting across town. Siri runs on the iPhone now, but your phone is not always around or charged up.

Interestingly, the rumors suggest that Apple may introduce the speaker next month at WWDC and, unlike the Echo, will have a screen -- which means it could also handle Skype calls and let you view photos form your last vacation.

It also better do these things:

1. Make easy phone calls

We call them smartphones, but I know a few millennials who don’t ever make calls. They text all day, and when they do place a phone call, it’s maybe once per week. In the living room, if you could make a quick call, it would save time. “Hey Siri, find an appliance repairman and make the call,” would be much faster than using Google Chrome or scrolling through contacts. Today, that doesn’t really work on an iPhone, so the speaker would have to use added intelligence to parse out what you want to do.

2. Engage in real dialog

Siri is pretty dumb, actually. The voicebot doesn’t really engage with you, and the best bot we have for dialog is the Assistant on Google Home. You can ask a question like “Who is Steph Curry?” and then say “When was he born?” and that works. It doesn’t work with Echo or Siri today. Apple could go much further with the speaker and let it converse with you about a wide range of topics; that's important since the speaker will become such an important part of your day (and your morning and your evening).

3. Summarize my email

Siri lets you dictate a text message pretty easily, but I’m not as interested in that. What I really want it to do is summarize my texts and emails, and then I'll keep typing emails on my laptop. The bot should know which ones are important, based on my frequent interactions and machine learning. For example, the boss needs me to call her right now. I’d like Siri to be able to let me know when that happens. And, the bot could tell me a quick synopsis of less important emails, set reminders, and ignore email fluff.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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