Can 'Eyes-Free' Siri Stand the Media Hype?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Of everything announced on Tuesday at Apple's ( AAPL) Worldwide Developers' Conference, three things seem to have generated the strongest and most euphoric reaction:

  • Apple's expected decision to dump Google (GOOG) Maps;
  • The introduction of the next-generation Macbook Pro with Retina Display; and
  • Apple's unveiling of "Eyes-Free" Siri, which, when integrated into an automobile, will allow drivers to work hands-free with an iPhone.
  • With the exception of Business Insider dumping on Apple's map platform every chance it got, the media took the first two points in stride. Apple Maps will do what it does. And, while a truly incredible machine, the Macbook Pro is a bit too high-end to really change the game much more than Apple already has.

    The reaction to "Eyes-Free" Siri, however, has been anything but sane and logical. It's been over the top. As an investor, when you see analysts and the media get giddy, reconsider the hype. The outcome, which we will not see for some time anyway -- at least in the auto -- likely will not live up to it.

    Since WWDC, several people have predicted the death of Pandora ( P) at the hands of "Eyes-Free" Siri. Just yesterday, TheStreet's Richard Saintvilus argued that Siri dealt the ultimate death blow to its pseudo-namesake Sirius XM ( SIRI). And it's impossible to count the number of folks who claim that Ford's ( F) in-vehicle entertainment system, Sync, is dead on arrival.

    Pandora and Sirius XM are essentially in the same situation. The argument here is that "Eyes-Free" Siri will expand the range of choices you have while in the car. Why listen to Pandora or Sirius XM (or get traffic reports via satellite radio) when Siri provides the ability to use any app as well as Apple's own navigation features? Now, you can even voice control iTunes via your connected iPhone. All of a sudden, everything becomes obsolete. Or so the meme goes.

    So, with Siri coming to your steering wheel, default choices such as satellite radio and an integrated Pandora become meaningless? That's too simple. And it's simply not true, particularly because you already use your iPhone to access streaming and other apps anyway.

    First, it comes down to content. You can use Siri to access both Sirius XM and Pandora. In fact, you could argue that the upgraded, "Eyes-Free" interface might actually increase the time you spend with those apps. At the end of the day, if Sirius XM and Pandora both continue to provide a service that their users find compelling, Siri will do nothing but further enable their success, just like the iPhone did for Pandora when it first came out.

    Second, I'm not sure how Ford's Sync or any other in-car integrated entertainment system dies. Siri is just another button that only means something if you have an iPhone. If you use Android, Windows Phone or some other device, you'll need another way to connect. Automakers will provide one. Many already are.

    If you look at the slate of features Sync offers, it should make you wonder why so much hype surrounds "Eyes-Free Siri." Sync continues to add features. It's only getting better. It's already available with most Ford models. And it does, pretty much, every useful thing Siri can do.

    The emergence of "Eyes-Free" Siri gives me a slight pause when I think of Intel ( INTC).

    Intel invested $100 million earlier this year in what it calls a "Connected Car Fund" with the goal of "developing technologies to promote new, compelling in-vehicle applications and enable the seamless connection between vehicles and any connected device, including mobile devices and sensors." They keyword there, " any connected device." No matter what Siri becomes, Apple does not own this space, just as it does not own mobile or laptops/desktops.

    As this plays out, expect Siri to be a feature in a vehicle just like everything else. The AM/FM, Satellite and Pandora buttons will not go anywhere any time soon. Ford has Sync and other automakers will not be able to forgo plans for their own connectivity platforms, even if they have signed on to include Siri as a standard feature or option.

    Like so much of what Apple does, the evolution of Siri makes the game more interesting, but it absolutely does not change it. Don't get swallowed up by the hype. Given everything Apple has going for it, there's no need to overstate something that just falls in line with what already exists.

    This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
    At the time of publication, the author was long INTC and P.