six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This week's sponsor

Build a great-sounding podcast studio for under $100 with Jason's expert recommendations.

If Apple announced a Siri-powered home speaker, what might that be like?

By Jason Snell

Imagining the introduction of a “Siri Speaker”

Rumors abound that Apple is working on a new device similar to the Amazon Echo and Google Home—something I’ve been calling the Siri Speaker for the last 14 months.

These rumors come at an interesting time for the ambient home assistant market. The surprising success of the original Amazon Echo has led to an influx of new products, including new Amazon Echo models, the Google Home, and a new Harman Kardon speaker featuring Microsoft’s Cortana assistant.

It’s been clear for a while now that Apple has all the pieces to make a home assistant product if it wanted to—Siri itself, expertise in making audio products from Beats, and a streaming music service in Apple Music. The question was, would Apple do it? And if it did, what choices would it make in fashioning such a product?

With the new rumors that the Siri Speaker might be announced as soon as next month at WWDC, Apple’s developer conference, I’ve started to picture what that announcement might look like. Consider it speculation, analysis, and a little bit of fan fiction all in one…

INT. SAN JOSE CONVENTION CENTER

TIM COOK

People love Siri. We use it on our iPhones, in our cars, even on the couch while watching Apple TV. But sometimes your phone is in your pocket, or in another room. And sometimes your hands are full.

Our customers also love music, and want a speaker with a full, rich sound—and as great as the speakers on the iPhone and iPad sound, it’s just not quite enough to fill a room.

The audience chuckles at the idea of an iPhone filling a room with sound.

Of course, if you’re listening to music, you want access to your entire music library as well as the hundreds of thousands of songs available on Apple Music, including curated playlists and custom mixes created just for you.

You also want to control the environment around them, using some of the hundreds of devices that now work with HomeKit, our secure and powerful home-control technology. With HomeKit, you can control your home’s lights, locks, garage doors, and much more, even when you’re not at home.

That’s why today we’re announcing a product that integrates Siri even further into your life, while also showing off the very best that Beats and Apple Music have to offer, and giving you more control than ever over your house with HomeKit.

Are you getting it yet? It’s an amazing new product we call Apple Home. We think it’s going to change how you use the Internet, listen to music, and interact with the smart technology in your home. And we’ve made a video to show you all about it.

The lights dim and a product video begins to play. In the video, there’s an entirely white room, save for a shiny black cylindrical object with an angled screen perched on the very top. As the camera moves in so close that we can only see the screen itself, we hear the voice of a teenager.

“Hey Siri, play Green Light.”

“Green Light” by Lorde begins to play as the camera swoops back, revealing that the white room has been replaced by a home setting. There’s a kitchen table with parents sitting drinking coffee and looking at an iPad and iPhone, as well as a teenager and a younger child eating breakfast. The teenager is moving along to the music, as we zoom in to see a Now Playing screen on the device displaying the song’s lyrics as they’re being sung.

One parent says: “Hey Siri, are the Giants playing today?”

The music fades back and a card comes up on the device screen showing the information, as the familiar voice says, “The Giants play the Milwaukee Brewers today at 4:40pm.”

The parent says, “Remind me before the game starts?”

Siri replies: “Ok, I’ve added a reminder to your calendar for 4:40 pm today.”

“Hey Siri,” demands the younger child. “Turn on the lights!”

All the lights in the room turn on, very bright. A parent grumbles.

“Hey Siri, make the lights dimmer,” says that parent.

The lights dim. The child pouts. But before she can say anything, there’s a familiar chime from the device.

“Traffic is heavy today,” Siri says. “You’ll need to leave soon to get to your first appointment at 9:15 am.” A parent groans and gets up and leaves the table.

The kids at the table smile. The teenager says, “Hey Siri, make the lights green.” The kitchen lights flood the table in green as we hear a climactic chorus of Lorde’s “Green Light.”

Fade to white. “Apple Home” appears on screen. Fade out. The room lights come up, and there’s loud applause.

TIM COOK

Now I’d like to invite Phil Schiller on stage to tell you more about Apple Home.

PHIL SCHILLER

Thank you, Tim. The Apple Home brings the power of Siri out of our devices and into the room around you. With its eight beam-forming microphones and a powerful signal processor embedded into the new Apple H1 chip, Apple Home can hear your commands anywhere in a large room, and all without you raising your voice.

We know there’s been a lot of talk about devices out there that interact with you only by voice. But ever since we first released Siri, we’ve felt that Siri works best when you have both voice and visual feedback. Now, there are a few examples where you can’t have visual feedback—when you’re driving a car or are in the middle of a run, for instance—but a screen can add so much more to the experience. On the iPhone, a majority of Siri requests involve some interaction with the screen.

That’s why we’ve built a touchscreen into Apple Home. It’s not meant to replace your iPhone or an iPad—it’s meant to be a big, bright display to show information or play videos. And right below it are these amazing Beats speakers, which provide sound so rich that it can fill a room.

Of course, Apple Home supports all of your most important personal information. You can ask Apple Home to set reminders, and it will alert you if one of your reminders is due, even if you set that reminder on your Mac or iPhone. Apple Home also works with your calendars, so you can be reminded of upcoming events and you can place items on your calendar just with your voice.

As Tim said, HomeKit is exploding. People are finding out how amazing it is to make the devices in their homes programmable and controllable way beyond flipping switches. There are hundreds of HomeKit devices in stores today and more are appearing every week.

Not only can you control HomeKit devices with Apple Home, just as you can with Siri from your iPhone, but Apple Home can act as a hub for HomeKit. If you want to schedule your front porch light to come on at a certain time of day, you can tell Apple Home and it will turn on that light when the time comes.

As Craig told you earlier, iOS 11 features a whole range of new ways to use Siri to interact with apps on iPhone. I’m happy to say that all of those SiriKit additions will also be coming to Apple Home. As developers, you can build extensions to your iOS apps that can be installed on Apple Home, in a way very similar to Apple Watch apps, and these will include support for SiriKit.

Of course, Apple Home isn’t an island unto itself—it integrates closely with all our other devices. Apple Home is an AirPlay speaker, so you can play audio direct from your iPhone or iPad to the Apple Home. The Apple Home also works with handoff, so it can ring when your phone rings, and tell you if your phone has just received a text message—and even read it back to you.

And later this year, Apple Home will also support Family Apple IDs. Each member of your family will be able train Apple Home to recognize their voice, so it knows whose calendar or reminders to check.

Now to give you a better idea about how Apple Home works, let’s bring up some of the people who made Apple Home to demonstrate it for you now.

[A demo follows in a faux home set revealed at the back of the WWDC stage, showing off all the features already described. When it’s over, Phil returns to the stage.]

PHIL SCHILLER

So that’s Apple Home. It brings the power of Siri to even more parts of your life, makes it even easier to enjoy everything Apple Music has to offer, and gives you complete control over your home with HomeKit.

And I’m happy to announce that Apple Home will ship later this fall for $349.

[The sound of applause from the developers in the audience is almost, but not quite, drowned out by the sound of furious typing by the members of the press in attendance.]

Is that how it’s going to go down? Probably not. After all, I’m just making things up here. Making the product alone is a careful balance of features, capabilities and resources. And then there are the decisions of how you market such a product. I’m a single person who is not an Apple product designer or product marketing manager. This is the best my personal Apple event emulator could manage.

I suppose we’ll find out the truth on Monday, June 5. Or maybe we won’t! That’s the funny thing about rumors. Sometimes they end up not being right at all.

[If you appreciate articles like this one, help us continue doing Six Colors (and get some fun benefits) by becoming a Six Colors subscriber.]