Why I think Spotlight and Siri should be one

Siri can i help you with

Ever since the rumors of Siri making its way to the Mac began gaining credence, I started thinking about how I would like to use the feature on OS X, and what it would mean for Siri on iOS. As I was toying around with the idea of Siri on my Mac, something became apparent very quickly: Siri and Spotlight Search have a lot in common. So much so that maybe it would make sense to merge then into one feature at some point. Let me explain.

The overlapping of features is obvious

Before we even get started, I want to highlight some of the main features of both Spotlight or Siri.

With Spotlight on your Mac, you can:

  • Search for apps (both installed and in the App Store)
  • Search for documents
  • Search for locations
  • Search for movie listings
  • Get sport scores
  • And more

With Siri on your iPhone, you can:

  • Search for apps (both installed and in the App Store)
  • Search your notes
  • Search for locations
  • Search for movie listings
  • Get sport scores
  • Get answers to a bunch of different types of questions
  • And more

These are what I believe to be the main use cases for Spotlight and Siri, with Siri clearly being much more capable than Spotlight when it comes to fetching information.

Where Spotlight excels is in locating files and documents on your Mac. Siri isn’t too good at that on iOS. It can find a Reminders list, or a note, but it can’t find a Pages document, for instance.

Still, it’s clear right off the bat that Spotlight and Siri have a lot in common.

The convergence has already begun

Starting with iOS 9, Apple has expanded Siri’s artificial intelligence with the creation of proactive suggestions. This feature extends beyond what we typically think of Siri’s capabilities as it can now do more, without even requiring any input from us.

The most obvious example of this can be seen in Spotlight on iOS, where Siri can intelligently suggest people from your contacts you might want to get in touch with, or an application it thinks you might want to use, or a location you might want to go to, or relevant news based on your location. On iOS, it is clear that the convergence of Siri and Spotlight has already started

The lines between Spotlight and Siri on iOS are getting so blurry that it’s hard to differentiate what is what. “Am I using Spotlight, or am I using Siri” is a question I sometimes ask myself when typing in Spotlight on iOS.

I know that Spotlight is the feature, and Siri is what powers it. Still, I’m a bit confused because Spotlight doesn’t mean much to me, while Siri is almost a household name.

One interface for both Spotlight and Siri

Things seem to get even more confusing when you start adding Siri for Mac to the mix, as how we saw before, some of the features clearly overlap.

Just like it does on iOS, is Siri going to power some of Spotlight’s suggestions? If so, then why have two separate interfaces and not merge them into one? Why do I have to click on a button to invoke Siri to ask it about the Warriors game score, when I can type “Warriors” in Spotlight Search?

I guess what I’m saying is, if Siri is going to power some of Spotlight’s capabilities, then why not make them one and offer a true powerful solution for all my search features, regardless of what I am looking for.

Ultimately, this is what I would like to see in OS X’s next update:

  • Make Siri the central search feature of my Mac
  • Drop the Spotlight Search icon and replace it by a Siri icon
  • Merge Spotlight’s existing capabilities with Siri’s
  • Let me either talk to Siri, or type my search queries

Once both features become one, there is no more confusion. No matter what I am looking for, I know I can have Siri help me find it, whether it is a PDF document from three years ago, the weather in Brisbane, Australia, or the score from yesterday’s game that I missed.

A key element to this is having the ability to type your request to Siri instead of speaking to it, something I have actually already put on my wishlist.

In the end, I think merging both Spotlight and Siri into one feature/entity would make things easier not only for the user who would then know he can search and find anything he wants in one place, but also for Apple who would then be able to brand Siri as the one and only assistant for both your iOS devices and your Mac.