Apple is already testing Chinese, Japanese and Russian language support for its voice-activated personal assistant technology Siri - and will roll out the new functionality next month as its efforts to cosy up to customers in these lucrative markets gathers pace.
Chinese tech site DoNews spoke to an Apple development engineer working on the Chinese language version of Siri who said at present only Chinese Mandarin would be supported, alongside Japanese and Russian, although it’s likely that Cantonese and other dialects won’t be too far behind.
Apple’s official Siri page says that languages including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Spanish will become available in 2012. The small-man/woman-in-a-box technology is currently only available in English (UK, US and Oz versions), French and German.
Users in Russia, China and Japan are also in line to steal a march on those in the UK and elsewhere with Maps and local search set to be supported in the upcoming versions of Siri planned for these markets.
This useful feature has thus far been confined to the US, which hasn’t gone down too well with customers in other regions who have forgotten where their local Starbucks is.
China being China, of course, the country already has an AI-powered personal assistant service for its iPhone users - China Mobile’s 10086shallo, although this is more of a self-service customer hotline about network-specific queries, according to tech site MIC Gadget.
Apple’s push to expand its iPhone capabilities in China and other Asian markets should come as no great surprise given the potentially huge pots of money to be made here, although it has also been a victim of its own success in China especially.
The maker of shiny toys was forced to stop selling its iPhones in physical stores in China and has implemented a reservation system in its Hong Kong store to prevent scalpers from buying up SIM-only devices in bulk and selling them on in the mainland for a profit. ®