Apple’s voice assistant can help iPhone (s AAPL) owners find movie theaters, restaurants, do language translation and even post to Facebook (s FB). With an update Thursday, the app can add another title: personal shopper.
In practice, this works fairly well if you simply want to buy something, but pricing information is more complicated. When I asked about the new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, Siri said, “Let’s go check out the Apple Store…” and brought up the Apple Store app. When I asked how much a 32GB iPhone 5 cost, Siri gave me some data about pricing in several currencies through Wolfram Alpha. When I asked where I could buy a refurbished iPod, Siri offered to search the web for me. When I simplified my request and queried where to find an iPod touch, Siri brought up the Apple Store app, right to the iPod touch product page.
In a post last month, Alex Layne wrote up his wish list of Siri features for us, and his top request was that Apple would integrate Siri with its own online stores, calling out iTunes and iBookstore in particular. Apple didn’t do that. But the company is showing that it’s at least thinking about using Siri to better connect customers with Apple’s own content and products.
The timing of the release is ideal for the frenetic holiday shopping period. (It also includes the ability to buy Apple gift cards and email them to friends and family.) Apple’s holiday this quarter will be huge — and has to be, to keep shareholders happy. The company’s biggest holiday lineup ever is hitting store shelves this month and next, so it seems natural it would use every resource available, including its famous personal voice assistant, to help it sell.
The bigger question, unrelated to holiday and Apple gadget sales, as Dan Frommer asked this morning, is whether Apple will start allowing other app developers this same privilege. This integration could be a test not just of Apple’s integration of Siri with its own content, but with apps.