This week saw the announcement at Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference of a partnership with nine automakers — probably the biggest tech-car partnership this year. You'd think the car companies would be ready for this big moment. You'd be wrong, as our undercover tech reporter explains. — Ed.
Minutes after Apple announced Siri Eyes Free integration at the WWDC keynote on Monday, the switchboards at GM, BMW, Chrysler and the rest of Apple's automotive partners lit up.
And for good reason.
Apple didn't spend much time on details, only announcing that nine automakers would bring Siri Eyes Free to their products in the next year. There was a lot to cover in the two-hour keynote, so it's understandable that Apple couldn't dwell on what was essentially another announcement in a string of new product and software reveals.
But still, there were questions.
When is it coming? How will it work? Will it use existing hardware? Is there an aftermarket solution? None of the automakers had answers. I know. I spoke with all of them.
In yet another example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, the PR teams inundated by inquiries from both tech and auto outlets were forced to throw together hastily-written, canned statements that did nothing to clarify -– or even confirm -– Siri integration.
Coupled with clueless spokespeople, stories began surfacing claiming automakers had no knowledge about the announcement before their chromed logos appeared above Scott Forstall's head.
"It was news to us," one spokesman told me on the condition of anonymity. "We had no idea this was coming."
But just because the lone flack you got on the phone doesn't know his nipple from a home button doesn't mean that the entirety of the company isn't aware of the partnership. Every automaker splashed on the screen at WWDC had been working with Apple for weeks or months leading up to the announcement. And any news outlet (and your Aunt Sally) knows the crew from Cupertino is highly secretive when it comes to outside partners, be them hardware companies, software firms, or in this case, automakers. So it's entirely plausible that the voice on the other end of the phone is just as oblivious as you.
But that didn't stop Fast Company from throwing together a misinformed report, CNET grabbing the ball and falling on its face, and the news aggregators reporting it as fact (or adding a cop-out question mark to the title) without taking the time to pick up the phone.
So who did I call? Apple. And I had a reasonable response within an hour and a dead story in my lap. Fine by me, as long as it's the truth.
But that's apparently just too hard, too complex or too taxing for tech pubs attempting to cover cars and automotive outlets trying –- and perpetually failing –- to cover tech