updated 03:00 am EDT, Tue June 7, 2011
Technology may have missed the cut
Some speculators -- and their sources -- were surprised by the lack of mention of voice-assistance technologies that were rumored to be included in Lion and/or iOS 5, prompted by the discovery of voices in developer previews of Lion that had previously been a part of a now-defunct Nuance product. Along with Apple's recent acquisition of Siri, a voice-based personal assistance app, rumors had flown ranging from Apple buying out Nuance directly (which prompted a denial from Steve Wozniak, who had helped propagate that particular report) to a cooperative or licensing deal that would see extensive changes to voice command integration in either Lion, iOS 5 or both.
Although Nuance's chief mobile technology architect Gunnar Evermann was in the audience at the keynote presentation yesterday at WWDC, neither his company nor its technology were mentioned -- prompting new speculation that the two organizations had failed to finalize a deal in time for the conference, or that the technology was not yet fully integrated, and will appear at a future date.
The prospect of Apple being able to marry the assistive technology of Siri with the voice-recognition advances of Nuance presents a tempting vision of advanced use of iPhones and iPads as futuristic personal assistants, where a users could, for example, simply ask the device to recommend a steakhouse that has an open reservation for two at 8pm, or what's playing at a nearby movie theatre, and have suggestions read out to them.
While not seeing the fruits of these recent Apple moves at yesterday's keynote may have been disappointing to some, unlike some rumors the guesswork around Apple's moves into more advanced voice use has a solid foundation of evidence to back it up -- and gives those waiting for those advances something to look forward to, perhaps when iOS 5 actually arrives or in some future update.