Apple is looking to broaden Siri's footprint and usefulness with help from third party app developers and a software development kit. The big question is whether the move will be able to thwart rivals such as Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa.
Both Apple and Google have been caught off guard by the success of Amazon's Echo and Alexa assistant. Amazon launched a speaker powered by voice, created an open ecosystem and Echo ultimately wound up as the hub of smart homes.
At Google I/O, Google rolled out Google Home, which is powered by Google Assistant and has hardware that rhymes with Echo. IHS Technology analyst Paul Erickson said the following about Google Home.
Where Google Home and Google Assistant are currently less capable than Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant platform-equipped Echo product line, is in the sheer variety of functions that can be performed. Since CES in January, Amazon has successfully seized substantial attention away from Apple and Google on the topic of how to control the emerging smart home. Much of this success is due to the company's agnostic stance and open platform, resulting in the announcement of a variety of partners and integrations for Alexa. New, unexpected use cases and integrations occur regularly, from both partners and hobbyists. Amazon's open platform strategy for Alexa will continue to be an asset, but the Google Home and Google Assistant announcements suggest that Google is casting a wide net as well, but in a different way: Google's voice driven approach isn't as directly bound to a single hardware manufacturer and its narrative includes Google Assistant eventually being present by default on the Android platform - the world's largest installed base of mobile devices.
As for Apple, Erickson noted that "it is surprising Apple has not already launched a product supporting both multiroom audio and virtual assistance. Google Home's debut exerts additional pressure on Apple in this regard."
Indeed, Apple has Siri, HomeKit, Apple Music and Beats. Those parts all play into the smart home. It's unclear what got Apple on the Siri SDK and third party app bandwagon. But Apple's developer conference will in part be about trying to enlist some help in making Siri as smart home friendly as Amazon's Echo and Alexa and Google Home.