Next Version of OS X to Include Apple Maps and Siri?

Apple is expected to integrate Siri and Maps into its next Mac operating system, OS X 10.9. If history is to be followed, we’ll have details in February.

Yesterday, 9to5Mac reported that reliable sources indicate Apple’s next version of OS X, version 10.9, will include Apple Maps and Siri. Details are few and far between so far, but it makes sense that Apple will continue expanding Siri across their product lineup. Currently, the voice controlled personal assistant is available on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. This would be the first time Siri would venture outside the world of iOS and into a desktop operating system. It isn’t quite as obvious, however, what Apple’s goal would be for including a native Apple Maps app on the desktop.

Apple Maps in OS X

Apple introduced their own, proprietary mapping service with the release of iOS 6 earlier this year, replacing [and completely eliminating] Google Maps from iOS. It’s no secret that it hasn’t been well-received by customers. You might remember the uproar was so loud, Tim Cook issued an apology to Apple customers, saying:

At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.

Apple then went on to promote an entire featured display in the App Store highlighting other, third-party mapping services. These included Bing, MapQuest, Waze, TomTom, and others. If that wasn’t enough, Apple created this new landing page showing users how to add Home Screen icons to their iOS devices that linked to the browser-based versions of Google Maps and Nokia Maps.

So what would Apple gain by adding Maps to OS X? That’s still unclear, but here are a couple thoughts:

1. Apple popularized “apps” as we think of them today, mainly through the App Store as a distribution channel. They’ve always had their own suite of apps, ranging from productivity (iWork) to multimedia (Aperture and Final Cut) to Utilities (Remote and AirPort Utility) to entertainment (iTunes, iMovie, GarageBand) and more. As iOS and OS X continue to evolve and share features, functionality and apps, it could make sense to have a desktop version of Maps, much like Google Earth. It’d be included on all new Macs and available for download in the Mac App Store.

2. While it seems unlikely, considering it’d be unprecedented for Apple, a Maps app in OS X could conceivably include some form of crowd-sourced error reporting. As you explore your local city with Flyover (on iOS), you’ll likely see parts of it that appear perfect; exactly as they should. Then, when you scroll around and zoom in for more detail, you’ll notice other areas are a complete disaster. You’ll notice common POIs are missing and some addresses don’t show up in the right place. Again, while it seems unlikely Apple would open Maps to editing and updates from outside the company, I’m not sure anyone fully realizes the mammoth undertaking it’s going to be to get it right. Or at least acceptable.

Siri in OS X

Siri’s story has had more time to unfold than Maps. She’s more than a year old, now, and received a significant upgrade around her first birthday, adding much needed improvements and new features like access to sports scores, movie reviews and ratings, dinner reservations, and the ability to post to social networks. In fact, a smaller component of Siri, Voice Dictation, is already available on the Mac with OS X Mountain Lion. Siri is still considered a BETA service, and with good reason. So how would Siri benefit the desktop?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Integration with existing OS X apps like Safari, Messages, Notes, FaceTime, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, iTunes and Mail makes sense. Just like with iOS, you’d be able to respond to iMessages, initiate a FaceTime call with one of your contacts, schedule a reminder or set an appointment, perform a web search, launch apps, and more.

2. Eventually, integration with third-party apps makes sense. Imagine you’re editing an image in Photoshop. Instead of hunting through the menus, you swipe a certain gesture on your trackpad to initiate Siri and ask for the Lasso tool. Or, maybe you’re an accountant working in an Excel spreadsheet with a few hundred rows. Instead of searching for a specific cell, you ask Siri to find the one that contains the value $3,247,806. Yet another example: many of us who live on the web have a couple dozen tabs open in Chrome at any given time (I have 21 open right now). I know I’d appreciate being able to use my voice to switch to the Techmeme tab instead of clicking through a few of them to find it. The possibilities are endless.

Timeline

Right now of course, none of this is confirmed. If history is anything to go by, I’d agree with 9to5Mac that we should expect to hear more about the upcoming features in OS X 10.9 around February, with a historical Summer release. Apple announced Mountain Lion at an event in February and it was available to customers on July 25.

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