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The story behind how Siri got its name

by Brad Spirrison

Dag KittlausWhile Steve Jobs loved the voice-recognition technology that powers the Siri Personal Assistant within the iPhone 4S, he was not at all a fan of the name.

Siri co-founder Dag Kittlaus said Jobs wanted to go with a new name for its game-breaking service that Apple acquired for a reported $200 million in 2010, but never ended up thinking of a better option. He shared this story with a group of Chicago-area technology entrepreneurs during an event called Technori Pitch.

So how did Siri get its name in the first place?

Siri is named for a “beautiful woman who leads you to victory”, Kittlaus explained to a group of Chicago entrepreneurs and startup professionals this week. He revealed that the name was also reserved for his first child, but was ultimately not used as his first kid was a boy.

“Also,” he added, “consumer companies need to focus on the fact that the name is easy to spell, easy to say.”

Kittlaus also shared the inside courtship of Apple’s pursuit of his company, which was founded in 2007 initially to commercialize artificial intelligence technology developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He was initially told to expect a call from Apple’s software honcho, Scott Forstall, to discuss a deal. Little did he know that it was Jobs who wanted to meet him in person.

“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.’”

The two hit it off during a 3-hour “surreal conversation” in Jobs’ home in front of his fireplace. Not long thereafter, Apple acquired Siri and made it the centerpiece of its most recent iPhone. Kittlaus, who now lives in Chicago and is working on his next venture, said he was thankful for the opportunity to work with Jobs for nearly a year before the Apple co-founder got too sick.

“He’s pretty incredible,” Kittlaus said. “The stories are true. All of the stories.”