Apple Looks For Leg Up On Microsoft With 'Siri For Mac'

Apple looks to bring a Siri-like assistant to OSX, and that might help it get in on the desktop virtual-assistant game before Microsoft does.

Apple Looks For Leg Up On Microsoft With 'Siri For Mac'
Sean MacEnree / CC BY 2.0

You may have seen the news that Siri — or something like it — could be coming to a future version of Apple's operating system.

Tech analysts have been poring over the patent Apple filed last week that describes a desktop-based digital assistant that would respond to vocal commands and complete tasks for the user, much like Siri does on the iPhone. 

This will go beyond simply putting Siri on your desktop or laptop, though, and may give Apple an edge in the so-called "virtual assistant" market.

For one thing, it can be activated by voice command or gesture, like how Microsoft's Kinect allows users to control their Xbox consoles by speaking or waving their hands. (Video via Microsoft)

But it will also be contextually aware, responding to commands based on where the user's cursor is or even performing operations off-screen, like on minimized browser windows.

TechCrunch says the assistant will essentially be a "third hand," allowing users a new way to control their computers beyond the keyboard and mouse, which could be why it's taken Apple so long to create: "The system described ... would require a lot of additional engineering to make it a reality."

All of the new functions mean Apple might finally be able to put a stop to digs over Siri's usefulness.

CNet points out"After the initial hype wore off, many users found [Siri's] functionality somewhat limited. ... Microsoft has shown how its own virtual personal assistant, Cortana, can perform many more tasks than Siri."

Microsoft has even used the comparison as fodder for advertising. 

Microsoft: "Next time you talk to Caroline, I'll remind you.

Oh, no, I cannot do that."

But there are still a few problems Apple has to sort out.

For one thing, critics of the Kinect say the way the system is always watching and listening is kind of creepy and raises privacy issues. (Video via CNET)

A writer for Saving Advice says, for something like a personal assistant, the constant surveillance becomes even more of a concern. "A true master assistant will remain poised to meet our needs, but does that mean Siri always has to be listening instead of us having to turn her on?" 

There's still no timetable on when the digital assistant itself would be released, but iOS 8 will be released in the fall. 

This video contains images from Getty Images, Sean MacEnree / CC BY 2.0.