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Apple's Next Mac Operating System Might Include a Crucial Windows 10 Feature

By Sam Mattera - Mar 2, 2016 at 11:15AM

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The Remond tech giant brought its digital personal assistant, Cortana, to its operating system last year. Now the iPhone maker could be about to follow suit with Siri.

Apple's MacBook. Image source: Apple

Apple (AAPL 2.45%) will soon integrate its digital personal assistant, Siri, into its Mac operating system, according to a recent report from 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman. The update seems logical, and Gurman has an impeccable track record.

It should allow Apple's desktop platform to keep pace with its major competitors as, in recent months, both Microsoft (MSFT 3.42%) and Alphabet's (GOOG 5.20%) (GOOGL 5.11%) Google have integrated their own personal assistants into their respective desktop operating systems. It should also help Apple strengthen the bonds between its devices, and further enhance its hardware ecosystem.

The last frontier
Siri made her debut in 2011, launching with the iPhone 4s. Over the past four years, Apple has expanded Siri's reach to most of its device portfolio -- all current-generation iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches include Siri, as does the Apple Watch and the fourth-generation Apple TV. Apple's Macs stand out as a notable exception.

Apple will allegedly include Siri in the next version of OS X, likely to be released in the fall. Siri will be integrated into the Mac Menu Bar, and will be accessed by clicking on an icon or, if connected to power, using the handsfree "Hey Siri" command. Newly released Macs should ship with the feature, while older devices could receive it through a free operating system update. Siri on the Mac could be just as useful as she is on the iPhone, answering questions, conducting searches, and tweaking settings.

Most Mac owners own iPhones, but most iPhone owners do not own Macs. In a study conducted between July 2012 and March 2014, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners found that, while 59% of Mac buyers owned iPhones, only 28% of iPhone buyers owned Macs. Convincing more iPhone owners to purchase Macs could help boost demand for Apple's computers.

The addition of Siri could play a key role, as she would further strengthen the bonds between Apple's products. Since 2014, the company has made a concentrated effort at enhancing the synergies between its various devices. 2014's OS X Yosemite, for example, gave iPhone owners the ability to place and receive phone calls through their Mac. With the addition of Siri, they'll be able to call a contact completely hands-free.

Cortana comes to Windows 10
Microsoft's Cortana arrived almost three years after Siri's debut, but the company was quick to add Cortana to its desktop PCs. Its latest operating system, Windows 10, includes deep integration with Cortana, as does its web browser, Microsoft Edge. During Microsoft's October earnings call, CEO Satya Nadella noted that Windows 10 users had already asked Cortana more than 1 billion questions.

Cortana benefits Microsoft's search business, as it's powered by the Redmond tech giant's search engine, Bing. Last year, for the first time, Bing achieved profitability, fueled in part by Cortana's Windows 10 integration. But Microsoft has also used Cortana as selling point for Windows-powered computers. A recent Windows 10 ad emphasizes Cortana and notes that "even on the new Macs, they don't have that."

Google's Chromebooks aren't as popular as Windows 10 devices, or Apple's Macs, but the search giant brought its personal assistant, Google Now, to the Chrome OS platform last year. Like Cortana, Chromebook users can access Google Now through the desktop, and conduct searches with their voice by saying "OK, Google."

Apple's Macs, then, are the only major personal computing platform missing a native assistant. The addition of Siri won't fundamentally change the Mac, but it should make it just a bit more enticing.

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