Siri Doesn’t Suck; And It Will Only Get Better
Today in this post on the Silicon Insider blog, Henry Blodget asserts, in the royal plural, that “we think it is highly unlikely that Apple would still be flogging Siri if Steve Jobs were still in charge of the company.” Blodget uses Apple’s handling of Apple’s cloud-based Mobile Me, which launched a couple of years ago, and totally confounded many long-time Apple fans, as a better path. He asserts that Jobs quickly apologized to the public (funny I don’t remember getting the note) and fired a few people and – lo and behold – today we have iCloud, as its replacement.
I certainly hope this doesn’t start a rash of “if Steve were alive…” or “WWSD” comments, though it’s already too late for that. More to the point, iCloud, and its derivatives like iTunes Music Match and other forms document or info sharing, still has major issues when it comes to usability and transparency. In my experience, it is erratic in its ability to update calendars, contact information and other shared info. It has also been incredibly opaque when it comes to set up and initiation (through settings on each device and in iTunes), as well as its inability to manage memory on my iPhone. As I blissfully thought I could now listen to music from my library – whether it is located on the device or “in iCloud” – I learned too late that every song with a cloud icon had to be downloaded to my device in order to be played. An error message that rivals Microsoft’s “Blue Screen of Death” when I sync my iPhone and a stern warning that I have exceeded memory limits on my device.
That sucks! And it’s largely because iCloud, unlike Siri, does not do a very good job of balancing between resources in the cloud and resources on the device. If you unwittingly ask it to download more content than your device can hold, it tries to do so, until it fails.
What’s more, iCloud, unlike Siri, doesn’t learn. In today’s wireless world the smartphone+cloud paradigm is taking hold. Both iCloud and Siri take advantage of that fact. But Siri does it much more intelligently, and transparently. Siri is designed to “understand” the phone’s owner. That is vital for both task completion and personalization. It is dynamic and improves overtime as the owner provides more data and spoken input.
iCloud may be the progeny of Mobile Me, but to many Apple owners, it’s just opaque – a sticker on the side of the iPhone or iPad package or a Web page that equates it to “Find My iPhone” or “Find My Friends.” I know that Apple has long-range plans to make iCloud the repository for all the data I originate from my iOS devices. But Apple has a long way to go in educating the public to change its behavior. “Imagine… a world without ‘File/SaveAs’ menus.” That’s gonna be a tough one to sell.
Meanwhile, just seeing Siri refer to Samuel L. Jackson as “Sam,” got me to train my phone to call me “Dan” (hey, its better than “Rock God”). I think the commercials are incredibly effective, even if “your mileage may vary” when it comes to every instance of using Siri. I’ve also noticed that people who are not of Sam or Zooey’s generation (meaning younger) are very comfortable dictating text messages or emails, looking for local eateries and other usecases that Apple has already anticipated. Success breeds more use. More use leads to more accuracy. More accuracy leads to more success. Ergo: “Success Breeds Success.” Now ask “What Would Steve Do?”