Phil Schiller on Amazon Echo-like devices and more

Phil Schiller, Apple’s “Senior Vice President Worldwide Marketing at Apple was in Bengaluru recently to inaugurate the company’s app accelerator facility in Bengaluru where he a spoke to group of Indian app makers,” Kunal Dua reports for Gadgets 360. “Later during the trip, Gadgets 360 got a chance to sit down with Schiller and pick his brains on a wide variety of topics, both developer- and consumer-focussed.”

Some snippets from Schiller regarding Amazon Echo-like devices:

There [are] 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… I think voice assistants are incredibly powerful, their intelligence is going to grow, they’re gonna do more for us, but the role of the screen is gonna remain very important to all of this… There is an interesting question about role of voice-only products in comparison to the products that have voice, and screen, and touch, and I think that’s an interesting discussion about when is each appropriate, and what can they do in our lives. I think that’s interesting.

Schiller discussed Swift, Apple Store upgrade pricing, and more on Amazon Echo-like devices in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Amazon is way ahead of you guys, Phil. Obviously.

In late April, CNET reported that Amazon will likely reveal a new Echo device with a built-in screen this month [May]:

“While voice assistants can tackle simple commands, the screen could allow Alexa to respond to more complex queries, said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research who didn’t have direct knowledge of the company’s plans. For example, voice shopping on the Echo today often requires users to wait and listen to multiple choices, but a screen could present those options all at once.”CNET, April 28, 2017

Some prior commentary:

As we wrote in March 2016:

Something along the lines of Amazon Echo is what Apple should have done if run by competent, forward-thinking management. When Apple finally does do their version of Amazon Echo (and they will get around to doing such a product eventually) they will rightly be called a follower. The company had all of the ingredients to make their own Echo, before Amazon, except for the vision, it seems.

And, as we wrote back in June 2016:

There could be a psychological component to this that leads people use Alexa over Siri precisely because they know the Echo is there (it’s a physical object), but forget about Siri being everywhere, even on their wrists (because Siri is embedded inside devices that are “for other things” in the user’s mind (telling time, watching TV, computing, phone calls, etc.) and therefore “hidden” to the user. Hence, Siri gets forgotten and goes unused while people use Alexa…

Again: We believe people use Alexa because Amazon Echo is a physical manifestation of “her,” while forgetting about Siri even though she’s on their wrists at all times and/or in their iPhones and iPads because Siri is hidden inside objects whose primary function is something other than “personal assistant” in people’s minds (watch, TV, phone or tablet, as opposed to “Siri.”) Alexa is present thanks to the Amazon Echo. Siri is absent because she has no such counterpart; no physical manifestation.

Siri is a ghost. Alexa is that cool, fun, glowing tube right there on the counter.

Apple would do well to not discount the psychology behind why people use certain features, even though cold, hard logic tells them it’s a redundant and unnecessary product.

An “Apple Echo” device would sell in the millions of units per quarter and boost Siri usage immensely.

Wi-Fi router capabilities to be built into Apple’s Echo echo? — MacDailyNews, November 21, 2016

Apple’s Amazon Echo echo rumored to borrow trashcan Mac Pro design cues, could arrive at WWDC – April 28, 2017
Following debut of Echo Look with built-in camera, Amazon likely reveal new Echo device with a built-in display – April 27, 2017
Apple said to be working on a Siri-based Amazon Echo rival – April 27, 2017
Apple’s Amazon Echo echo: What if AirPort Extreme becomes the Siri speaker? – December 1, 2016
Apple abandons development of wireless routers – November 21, 2016
Apple’s Amazon Echo echo – September 26, 2016
Apple’s Amazon Echo rival said to include includes built-in cameras to read users’ emotions, recognize faces – September 23, 2016
Apple’s Siri-powered Amazon Echo-like device reportedly now in prototype testing – September 23, 2016
Why an ‘Apple Echo’ would be a hit – June 15, 2016
New Apple TV to take on Amazon’s Echo, source says – May 26, 2016
Apple preps Amazon Echo rival, opening up Siri – May 24, 2016
Apple should make a stationary voice command device like Amazon’s Echo – May 19, 2016
Google unveils its Amazon Echo knockoff called ‘Google Home’ – May 18, 2016
Where’s Apple’s answer to Amazon Echo? – March 31, 2016
Amazon Echo leads mindshare in smart home platform war – February 29, 2016
Why did Apple buy a startup whose tech can read emotions via facial recognition? – January 7, 2016
Apple buys Emotient, maker of artificial-intelligence tech that reads emotion by analyzing facial expressions – January 7, 2016


  1. Yes its quite possible a physical Siri would pave the way for more virtual Siri usage & acceptance elsewhere. If anything it’s like training folks to use the technology through psychology. So many are resistant to change or to try it so make it irresistible and friendly. Sometimes you can be too ahead of yourself for your own good.

    1. I am not quite sure how sound this Echo-like concept is though. I actively use few rooms, not just one. It makes no sense that to buy Echo-like device for just one room; it would very annoying if I would have to go to a specific room to ask questions, set times and reminders.

      Should I buy like three of Echo-like devices? It would be costly.

        1. Peter,
          With that attitude, why don’t you just surrender your paycheck each week to Apple. I’m sure that will help their bottom line, as if they really need help. C’mon, don’t be so selfish now.

    2. MDN, you’re wrong.

      Amazon Echo is stupid, and it’s not anything Apple should produce. First off not having a screen is flawed.

      Apple will not do this. You have Siri in your pocket, and Apple should work on Siri always listening when unplugged when you want her to for starters.

      We now also have Siri on the Mac. Apple could make a homekit product that are perhaps some wifi microphones that can be placed in rooms that work with the Mac.

      But an Amazon Echo device? No:

      -No screen, which makes it a stillborn computing device; and
      -Have to buy multiples of them for a home since a home can have several rooms.

  2. If I ever want or need a voice assistant, chances are almost 100% that I will have one of my devices (iPhone, iPad, iMac, Apple Watch or Apple TV) near enough and available to ask. So I most certainly do not need yet another redundant me-too standalone speaker device.

    That’s not to even mention the potential privacy issues of having an always-on and listening device, which is why I’d absolutely never own one that was connected to Amazon or Google servers.

    1. If you have Hey Siri turned on, you already have an always-on and listening device. Nothing is recorded or transmitted until you say the trigger phrase though. At least Amazon and Google show the recordings in their apps or online and allow users to delete them. Apple does not offer that.

    1. Sure, if you don’t mind bending over and speaking directly to the phone. The Echo has 7 directional microphones and Google Home has 2. I think the main reason Siri compares so unfavorably to Alexa and Google is simply the microphone quality. A dedicated device can accurately hear you from another room over ambient noise. Talking with Siri is like trying to talk with an older person who’s lost most of their hearing.

  3. 1. In a few years people will have home robots. Will these home robots have screens on their chests or foreheads? No, the interaction will be primarily with voice.

    2. Will we have to touch the front of our smart glasses to make it do things? No, the glasses would get smudged if touched. This means the primary interaction in the beginning of these devices will be voice and eye trackers.

    The benefit of the speaker device is the convenience when users aren’t using their smartphones, smart watches or tablets. To use a voice assistant like Siri on one of the other devices requires multiple steps, and the smart speaker is available on command.

    The other benefit to smart speakers is the ability for them to be communal communicators. For example, a mother on her way out the door could say something like, “Siri, remind Phillip to water the Azela Bush when he gets home from baseball practice.” When Phil gets home the speaker device recognizes his presence and relates the message(s).

  4. Talking to a device can be useful and easy, but getting spoken responses from a device isn’t always the best way of interacting.

    For instance, when cooking, if my hands are messy, I might ask Siri to set the timer for thirty minutes, which is really easy. However although an audible alarm after thirty minutes is what I’ve asked for, I would also like to see a countdown of that time, but my iPhone and iPad will have dimmed the display long before that and I would need to wake it up again to see the time left ( I don’t want to keep changing the time before the screen locks, but would welcome a way to have it automatically stay on for longer when my iPhone is not in my pocket ). A device with an always-on display would work well in that context.

    Similarly if I was getting ready for work and asked the device what the traffic was like along the route, a graphic highlighting the hot-spots would instantly tell me much more that reciting a list of issues along my usual route.

    Spoken responses can be very inefficient. Most of us will have listened to a national weather forecast on the radio and missed the bit about our area because we got bored listening to what the weather was like everywhere else. Unless the information asked for can be delivered in just a short sentence or two, speech output isn’t usually very suitable, while a visual display can provide information that you can take in almost instantly.

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