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By Jason Snell for Macworld
I’ve had an Amazon Echo in my house for a few weeks now, and it’s convinced me that the best voice-controlled assistant doesn’t live in your phone or on your remote control, but in the air all around you. And that this is a place Apple—and Siri—need to be.
Even before Thursday’s report that Google may be working on an Echo competitor, I’ve been thinking that Apple should build a device like Amazon’s $180 Echo, a small speaker with integrated microphones that’s wired to a Siri-like voice agent named Alexa.
In the past few weeks, with the Echo in the house, I have conversed more with Alexa than I have with Siri in the past year. That’s in part because Siri is too often stuck in my pocket or out on a countertop, while Alexa can hear me all over my house and then speak back to me in a loud voice that my iPhone can’t muster. Unlike Siri, I don’t need to pick up my phone or walk over to where it’s docked to talk to Alexa.
It’s also because, unlike Siri, Alexa can’t cheat by displaying results on a screen. Alexa is a voice interface completely divorced from visual fallbacks; Siri all too often refers me to results that display on my phone’s screen, which is generally not what I want.
For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to imagine what Apple could bring to this sort of product. With apologies to everyone involved, here’s what I’m thinking.