It may be a household name now, but the first time Steve Jobs heard the word "Siri," he wasn't sold. That's according to Dag Kittalaus, the Norwegian cocreator of the iPhone 4S' famed virtual assistant, who offered new details this week on how the technology was named, and how it seduced the late Apple founder. Today, 87 percent of iPhone 4S owners say they use Siri each month. But how did the increasingly famous digital assistant end up with her unique name? Read on:
Who came up with the name?
Kittalaus did. As he revealed at a startup conference in Chicago this week, he planned to name his daughter Siri after a former coworker (in Norwegian, Siri means "beautiful woman who leads you to victory") and even registered the domain Siri.com. Then he and his wife had a son, and the website was shelved. But when Kittalaus was ready to launch his splashy speech recognition technology, he resurrected Siri. "Consumer companies need to focus on the fact that the name is easy to spell [and] easy to say," he said.
How did Apple get involved?
Siri, Inc. was incorporated in 2007, and the technology was launched as an IOS app available in the Apple Store in early 2010; plans were in the works to make the software available for the Blackberry and Android phones. Things changed when Kittalaus, then the start-ups's CEO, received a call three weeks later from Steve Jobs.
Then what happened?
The Apple CEO flew Kittalaus to his home in Cupertino, CA, where the two had a three-hour chat in front of Jobs' fireplace about the the future of technology. "And, you know, he talked about why Apple was going to win, and we talked about how Siri was doing," said Kittalaus. "He felt that we cracked it." Apple went on to purchase Siri for $200 million in April 2010, ending plans to make it available for rival operating systems. There was one problem, however — Jobs wasn't fond of the name.
Why didn't Jobs change the name?
Kittalaus, who worked for Apple until October 2011, tried to convince the notoriously hardheaded Jobs that Siri was a great name. But in the end, the company stuck with the name for a more straightforward reason: No one could dream up anything better. (According to Wikipedia, the name is now also used as shorthand for "Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface.") "Jobs was similarly on the fence about the names 'iMac' and 'iPod,' but failed to find a better option," says Leslie Horn at PC World. But it seems Kittalaus was right about Siri. Today, she's an indelible part of pop culture, and a benchmark other companies are trying to top.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why the Sony hack changes everything
- Alien conspiracy theorists think the government is on the verge of spilling big secrets
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
- Capitalism isn't a cure-all for Cuba
Subscribe to the Week