Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

The day Steve Jobs phoned Siri

March 28, 2012: 12:25 PM ET

He wasn't particularly fond of the name, recalls co-founder Dag Kittlaus

Kittlaus at Technori Pitch. Photo: NetworkWorld

Three weeks after his Siri app was approved for sale on the App Store, Dag Kittlaus was told to expect a call from Apple senior vice president Scott Forstall. The phone rang:

"Dag, this is Steve Jobs."

That, according to NetworkWorld's Yoni Heisler, was the beginning of the chain of events that led to Apple (AAPL) buying Kittlaus' company for $200 million and making his voice-activated personal assistant software the showcase feature of the new iPhone 4S last fall.

The story, as Kittlaus told it Tuesday at Chicago's Technori Pitch (according to Heisler's notes), goes like this:

He wanted me to come over to his house the next day, and I did, and I spent 3 hours with him in front of his fireplace having this surreal conversation about the future.

And, you know, he talked about why Apple was going to win, and we talked about how Siri was doing. And he was very excited about the fact that... you know, he was very interested in this area in general but, you know, they're patient, they don't jump on anything until they feel they can go after something new and he felt that we cracked it. So that was his attraction.

The kicker is that Jobs liked the software, but not the name. In Heisler's words:

Kittlaus recounted that Jobs wasn't sold on the Siri name. Kittlaus, therefore, kept lobbying Steve Jobs to keep the Siri name, telling him quite consistently that "it's a great name."

Still, Jobs wanted to use something else, but failing to find anything better, decided to stick with "Siri". What's particularly interesting about this is that there are similar stories regarding the naming process behind the iMac and the iPod -- two products with names Jobs reportedly didn't care for either but ultimately acquiesced to after not being able to find better alternatives.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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