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  • Siri Fear Mongering Continues

    September 6th, 2017

    So Siri is bad. Terrible, a huge fail. Apple is late to the party, and the digital assistants from Amazon, Google and Microsoft are the only ones to be taken seriously.

    You get the picture.

    Yes, it’s typical Apple fear mongering, the sort of thing where nothing the company can do will ever gain the respect of certain critics. It doesn’t matter that Siri arrived in 2011, ahead of the digital assistants from those other companies. It has to be behind the curve, because Apple refuses to configure its cloud-based servers to capture your personal information to better configure Siri to do your bidding.

    Now that may, in part, have been true up till now. Tests show that the Google Assistant may be more responsive than Siri in answering your requests, particularly when they become a little more complicated than setting an alarm or performing other simple tasks.

    But that’s yesterday. Apple has promised improvements in recognition and intelligence in Siri for iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. For one thing, the voice is more human-like, and machine learning will supposedly help Siri to better adapt itself to your needs. Apple has also provided enhanced tools for developers to support Siri in their apps.

    It sounds good to me.

    Yet the usual Apple critics would rather make unfounded and unproven assumptions as to whether Siri has improved. An article in a major online publication — very major — takes this assumption and runs with it at full speed, all without any evidence of how much Siri has changed.

    So we’re told that that “Amazon turned Alexa into a product brilliantly,” which presumably refers to the Echo. But the Echo has, in a little under three years, achieved unit sales about a third of those of the Apple Watch. So success must mean selling less.

    Google, in contrast, “has brilliant technology,” but Apple is somehow fated to make Siri and its artificial intelligence technology merely “good enough.”

    Again, these assumptions are being made without actually testing anything.

    With iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra in the late development stages, why not actually run some tests to see how much Siri has improved?. I did see a test with the early beta indicating it had a ways to go, but that’s not good enough. How does Siri stand now? Put Apple’s digital assistant up against Amazon, Google and Microsoft and see whether the improvements make it “good enough,” whether it still needs improvement, or whether it’s actually superior.

    What are they afraid of?

    Taking this negative posture also means that the article’s author can make some absurd requests, such as having Apple partner with other companies, and I assume that includes Google, to share expertise. That, of course, would put the kibosh on one of Apple’s key advantages, which is to protect users from becoming the product for targeted ads and other promotions. It would violate Apple’s privacy policies big time!

    Yet according to the blogger in question, it must be done to make Siri good enough to compete against the competition.

    But all this is said on a backdrop of nothing. Again, the new and improved Siri isn’t being tested. Its advantages and disadvantages must remain the huge unknown unless you actually put it through its paces.

    Now it just so happens that the publication in question routinely tests a whole assortment of products and services. But the article in question doesn’t consider that possibility, and instead provides some juicy quotes designed to buttress an unproven argument. It’s all about Apple inevitably being behind the curve and thus forced to play a huge game of almost catch-up.

    In the real world, I don’t know whether Siri is all that much better in the new Apple operating systems. Granted, the voice is definitely more realistic, but that doesn’t mean that commands and context are better. But regardless of how a brief test fares, how will machine learning help to make Siri more responsive to your requests? Will Siri adapt itself over a few weeks to become a little better, a lot better? What?

    All this is part of the usual anti-Apple meme. The perception is that the company succeeded by sheer luck, or a fluke, or that customers have been hoodwinked into believing that iPhones, iPads, Macs and the Apple Watch are only perceived as better because of someone’s reality distortion field.  But Steve Jobs is no longer with us, so that can’t be it. Tim Cook is just a numbers guy, so he can’t persuade anyone of anything, right?

    So maybe Apple is a religious cult that has attracted hundreds of millions of loyal fanatics who aren’t smart enough to know what’s good for them. No, that’s not it either.

    I’d rather play around with Siri and see if it does what I want, and consult the experiences of others. If product reviewers run tests, I would hope they wouldn’t design them to favor one digital assistant platform over the other, but would give them all a fair shake.

    Let’s see if the publication the specializes in reviews — and an occasional fear-mongering post — has the courage to do the right thing.



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