Apple Inc. unveiled software that will allow its voice-activated personal assistant Siri to order pizza, call for a cab or check a bank balance, trying to keep pace with virtual assistants from Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
The new software for Siri will enable programmers to build the voice-activated assistant into their apps, Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief, said Monday at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.
The developers conference has taken on greater importance for Apple as the company seeks to offset a slowdown in iPhone sales by increasing its software income. Since Apple takes a cut of commission from every sale in its App Store, the annual event is the cornerstone of its efforts to persuade external developers to build programs designed for its devices, which help increase that revenue. Each app can also serve to foster customer loyalty by locking them into Apple’s products, generating further sales of iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones.
The improvements will help Siri catch up with Amazon and Google, which have released competing voice-activated virtual assistants since Apple introduced Siri in 2011. A developer kit for Amazon’s Alexa has been available since last year, while Google released the same in March, two months before updating Google Now to become Google Assistant.
Virtual assistants are playing an increasingly key role in managing the way consumers operate their digital lives: interacting with social media, arranging calendars, ordering shopping and running homes with web-connected appliances. Technology companies are investing in their virtual assistants as they compete to become the gatekeeper for those products.
In addition to the new software for Siri, executives introduced new operating systems for Mac computers, Apple TV and Apple Watch.