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Jason Snell for Macworld

Free Siri! Why Apple should make an Echo competitor ↦

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.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦