Hey Cortana, why can’t I use Siri on a Mac?

You can use Cortana on a Mac, but not Siri. Why does this make sense?

Cortana

Am I the only person who doesn’t’ understand why Microsoft’s Cortana has (sort of) beaten Siri to arrive on the Mac platform? It just seems such a lost opportunity.

Cortana doesn’t even need to run natively on the Mac – you must install Parallels Desktop for Mac 11,(c.$79.95) to run Windows 10 natively on a Mac. Once you install Windows in this then Microsoft’s Cortana assistant is available across both Mac and Windows.

In practice this means you can be working in Photos or Pages on a Mac and can summon support from Cortana using the magic phrase, “Hey Cortana”. That’s a role Siri should be filling, particularly as the inherent technology improves.

Previously published Apple/Siri patents reveal the company already agrees that: “The integration of an at least partially voice-controlled intelligent digital assistant into a desktop, laptop, and/or tablet computer environment provides additional capabilities to the digital assistant, and enhances the usability and capabilities of the desktop, laptop, and/or tablet computer."

Why doesn’t it?

Apple has previously called Siri “an entire miniature OS within the OS....” The company already has Siri for iOS devices and (we hear) soon on Apple TV – but hasn’t yet deployed it on Macs.

This seems a shame given many existing Spotlight search functions would make as much sense if made available via voice commands on a Mac. Perhaps Apple fears introducing additional complexity to the OS.

Macs are already quite capable of supporting speech – just take a look at the Dictation and speech recognition they already provide. These already allow some “remote control” of the Mac. Theoretically Siri would enable more features, better search tools and improved comprehension. (Here is how to train Siri to work for you better on iOS).

What it is doing

Siri continues to improve. The latest iOS 9 beta includes a range of new tools, significant performance increases and numerous new queries you can request from Siri. Meanwhile in the back rooms, Apple developers continue to implement new features and application support for future release. For example, Apple Insider last week noted an Apple job opening for a developer focused on deepening Siri support in Apple Music. Siri is already quite capable of handling some complex requests in Apple Music (Read ‘Your essential Siri and Apple Music guide’ for some tips on using these).

How would Siri on Mac work?

Remember that patent application we mentioned? Take a look and you’ll see that Apple visualizes Siri on a Mac as acting like a “third hand”, enabling users to get things done while remaining within an application. The assistant wouldn’t only be responsive to requests, but would have a sense of context – so actions it could take would partially be delineated by the position of the cursor. (If the cursor was above text in a document you could speak copy and paste, for example). The most likely interpretation of the patent is to consider Siri as capable of replicating almost any task on your Mac.

Force Touch

Apple’s biggest UI improvement for years, Force Touch is only now seeing deployment across its platforms. There’s lots of optimism surrounding the new technology, and it seems possible Apple decided to focus its UI changes only on Force Touch, opting to cancel other plans while it familiarizes users with it. Are Force Touch and Siri compatible in user interface design? For the present, at least, Mac users don’t know. But for the cost of a copy of Parallels and Windows 10, (around $200 all told) they can always ask Cortana…

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story?Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftAppleMac ProSiriOS X YosemiteWindows 10

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Jonny Evans

Jonny Evans

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?