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Startup Secret No. 10: Your app needs a personality makeover

Happy app? Smart-aleck app? Indifferent app? Consumers are beginning to expect apps with more to say.

"AI is the new UI."

--Dave Morin, CEO of Path

I slipped this quote into my writeup of Path 2.0 last month, but I wanted to call it out here because it's potentially a very important trend in app design.

Morin dropped this line on me when I asked him about Apple's Siri, which is a major breakthrough. Not because it's the first voice-recognition app (it isn't) or the first smart agent app (ditto). Rather, it's good enough at what it does and it's being pushed so hard by Apple that consumers are now coming to expect apps to be smart, and smart-aleck, too.

Apple may even have over-promised on Siri, but the genie is out of the bottle. Consumers are beginning to expect new apps to be Siri-like (the Siri they see on ads, that is) wherever it makes sense.

If you have a calendar app and the user types in, "Lunch with Bill a week from Friday," your app had better know what that means. That's table stakes. It should also ask which Bill you mean and possibly recommend a location based on your past experience with Bill.

User will soon expect that modern apps make smart decisions about what you want based on not just what you ask for, but who you are, who you know, where you are, how fast you're going, and so forth.

What surprised me is how open people appear to be to wiseacre apps. Ask Siri the same question three times, and you'll get the answer three different ways. Morin's Path, likewise, will report on your sleep behaviors differently each day, just to keep your Path social net friends engaged.

There is a whole new branch of user interaction design and AI that's going to emerge: app personality development.

Startup Secrets is based on personal interviews with people building companies and from their blog posts and news stories. Subscribe to Startup Secrets on Twitter or come back to Rafe's Radar every day for a new one. See all the Startup Secrets.