Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Technori Pitch, a monthly event where Chicago-based start-ups can showcase what they've been working on. The keynote speaker for the evening was none other than Dag Kittlaus, one of the co-founders of Siri. Apple acquired Siri for $200 million in April of 2010 and would go onto make it the flagship feature on the iPhone 4S.
During a rousing presentation about entrepreneurship, start-up culture, and the accelerating pace of technological advancements, Kittlaus also touched on the history behind the Siri name and how the company came to be acquired by Apple.
Interestingly enough, Kittlaus relayed how Jobs wasn't particularly enthralled with calling Apple's voice recognition feature "Siri."
But before that, Kittlaus explained how he came up with the Siri name.
So Siri means in Norwegian, "beautiful woman who leads you to victory".
I worked with a lady named Siri in Norway and wanted to name my daughter Siri and the domain was available. And also consumer companies need to focus on the fact that the name is easy to spell, is easy to say…
Incidentally, Kittlaus' first child was born a boy so the Siri name had to remain on the shelf.
In any event, 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.
Describing how Apple first showed interest in Siri, Kittlaus - who was the CEO of Siri - explains how he got a call from Cupertino just three weeks after the Siri app originally launched on the iPhone in early 2010.
Three weeks after we launched I got a call in the office from someone at Apple that said, "Scott Forstall wants to talk to you and he's the head software guy."
And I said sure...
Only it wasn't Scott that called it was Steve. And Steve never announces where he's gonna be and what he's gonna do because there's too much commotion around it. So he said, "Dag, this is Steve Jobs."
And 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.
I ended up very lucky, timing wise. I got to work with him for a year before he got real sick. And he's pretty incredible. The stories are true. All of the stories.
Kittlaus worked at Apple up until this past October whereupon he decided to leave Cupertino for Chicago to be close to his family and explore other opportunities.