SAN FRANCISCO: Apple said on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) it was opening up its Siri digital assistant to outside applications, stepping up its artificial intelligence efforts to compete against rival services from Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
The new feature will enable iPhone users to connect with non-Apple services to send messages, make payments and search photos.
“Now you’ll be able to tell Siri ‘send a WeChat,’” said Apple Vice President Craig Federighi, referring to the Chinese messaging application.
Federighi said Siri will also work with apps such as Slack, WhatsApp, Uber and Lyft.
The announcement at the kickoff of Apple’s annual developer conference in San Francisco marks a new approach for Apple, which has largely kept its leading services self-contained on the iOS mobile operating system.
The new feature will debut on the iOS10 operating system expected later this year.
Also opening to outside developers will be the Apple Maps application, which had a rocky debut marked by glitches in 2012, and the iMessage platform.
This will mean that iPhone users navigating with Apple Maps can, for example, make a restaurant reservation using a third-party service such as Open Table, said Apple Vice President Eddy Cue.
By opening up its messaging platform, Apple will also developers to create anything from silly “stickers” to payment programs within iMessage, ramping up competition against Facebook Messenger.
The announcements come with Apple aiming to move deeper into services amid slowing sales of its profit-leading iPhone, and a weak tablet market that has hurt sales of its iPad.
Apple also announced it was bringing Siri to its Mac computer system, allowing users of the PCs to search their machines or the Internet with voice commands.
The moves expand the footprint for Siri, which is facing increased competition from Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Now, which also use artificial intelligence.