Apple’s Phil Schiller Says Voice-Activated Smart Speakers Could Benefit from a Display

In an interview published this week by Gadget 360, Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller offered his thoughts on dedicated voice assistants like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Schiller said that the lack of an onboard screen may be a hindrance in many situations for these devices.

Speaking with Gadgets 360 during a trip to open Apple’s App Accelerator center in Bengaluru, India, Schiller was asked to comment on Amazon Echo and Google Home. Schiller declined to address any one device, saying “My mother used to have a saying that if you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all.”

For its part, Apple “believes deeply” in voice-driven assistants, citing the ongoing development of Siri. Schiller also noted the company’s interest in “voice-only” assistants that lack a screen and use voice as the sole point of interaction.

“First of all, there is a lot of talk in the industry about voice-driven assistants and we believe deeply in voice-driven assistants that’s why invest in Siri, but there is interest in a voice-only assistant, where there is no screen, and we think it’s important to that there are times when it’s convenient to simply use your voice when you are not able to use the screen. For example, if you’re driving [and] you want Siri to work for you without having to look at the screen, that’s the best thing. Or maybe you’re across the room, and you want to ask Siri to change the song you were listening to – you don’t have to walk over and back [and you can use Siri instead].

So there’s many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn’t mean you’d never want a screen. So the idea of not having a screen, I don’t think suits many situations.”

In its current form, Siri is only offered on devices with built-in screens, most recently making its way to Mac last year as part of macOS Sierra.

Schiller offered an example that showcases the benefit of having a screen attached to the virtual assistant. When performing navigation operations in Maps, especially with Apple Watch and CarPlay, voice assistants can provide verbal directions, but the added benefit of a graphical map helps users better understand their surroundings.

Schiller mentioned games as an another area of interest for voice assistants. While iOS games have yet to integrate Siri functionality, Schiller said he has “yet to see any voice-only games that, for me, are nearly as fun as the one that I play on my screen.”

The company is rumored to launch its own Siri-based Echo competitor in the near future, perhaps as soon as WWDC in June. Details of the supposed device are scarce, though reports suggest a cylindrical design inspired by the Mac Pro.

During the interview, Schiller also discussed the potential changes to App Store pricing and the dramatic uptake in Swift among the developer community.

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