There has been a lot of speculation about the reason behind Apple's recent acquisition of Siri, the mobile voice based virtual assistant app for the iPhone.
Some have said that it is to improve Apple's voice search capabilities while still others have said it was to fast track the launch of Apple's patented iTravel application.
[See: TLabs Showcase - Siri]
The acquisition is a combination of both improving voice search on the iPhone, which has been primarily dominated by the Google app, and Siri's already tight integration with a variety of booking and content APIs.
What hasn't been discussed so far is that Siri's underlying framework is already designed to plug into multiple APIs for the purposes of searching and booking.
Although I have never seen Siri's architecture, it is not difficult to envision the structure based on their partnership model that clearly shows a preference for companies that provide revenue share with strong, well documented transactional APIs.
The key word here being transactional. Siri, as some have already described, is an action oriented search tool which allows the user to search for local services and book the services in real-time and within the context of the application.
This is an important distinction from Google, which returns relevant search results and then points the searcher off to the vendors website to book or call.
In contrast, the Siri app takes the user from search right to confirmation all without leaving the application.
By taking a different approach to the search process, Siri has essentially created a mobile voice based booking engine.
Presumably the API integration framework they have created will allow Apple to add additional APIs into the mix without having to develop the framework from scratch.
The app already supports restaurant reservations through OpenTable, taxi bookings through Taxi Magic, movie tickets through Showtime, and local listings from a variety of sources including Yahoo! local.
Most recently though, Siri partnered with our company, Rezgo, a leading tour and activity reservation platform to provide in app booking of local tours and activities.
This move into tourism-related products, the acquisition by Apple, and the release of the iTravel patent documents all seem to point to a move towards providing access to all forms of travel bookings on the iPhone.
What is equally interesting is the way in which Siri has partnered with leading platforms.
By specifically choosing to work with applications that provide a revenue share model and in application booking, they are able to provide a seamless search and booking experience for the user without having to deal with the overhead and headaches of being an intermediary.
Even if the margins are slimmer going through an established partner, the potential volume of bookings will result in a significant cumulative revenue share through the application.
Given that over 80% of tours and activities are booked in destination, this could make the iTravel app the booking tool of choice for mobile users.
Only time will tell whether or not Apple's strategy is going to pay off.
Whether or not it does, the addition of Siri's voice search and virtual assistant technology will make the iPhone a better device and ultimately iTravel, regardless of its features, a better application.