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Should Apple Kill Siri and Start Over?

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses whether Apple should kill its virtual assistant Siri and start over, given the persistent issues and frustrations users have experienced with Siri over the years. It examines Siri's origins, the initial promise and vision behind it, and how it has struggled to keep up with advancing rivals and the rise of generative AI chatbots.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Siri's Birth Pangs

1. What were the conceptual roots of Siri at Apple?

  • Apple commissioned a group of employees to create a video called "Knowledge Navigator" 30 years ago, which featured a virtual assistant helping a professor with everyday tasks and research.
  • The video inspired developers Adam Cheyer, Dag Kittlaus, and Tom Gruber to start AI research on virtual assistants at SRI International, which led to the creation of Siri.
  • Siri was launched as an app on the Apple App Store in 2010, and Apple later acquired the startup and integrated Siri into the iPhone 4S in 2011.

2. How did Apple market Siri initially?

  • Apple marketed Siri as an "intelligent assistant" that could help with a variety of tasks like setting reminders, sending texts, making calls, and finding information online.
  • The initial results were impressive, and the underlying promise was that Siri would not only understand the user but also learn and become more efficient and personalized over time.

[02] Fiction vs. Reality

1. What are some of the persistent issues users have reported with Siri?

  • Setting timers instead of alarms
  • Bungling music requests
  • Delayed responses over fast data connections
  • Nonsense responses to conversion requests
  • Creating notes instead of reminders
  • Acknowledging requests without acting on them
  • Overwrought punctuation when dictating
  • Inability to consistently control smart devices

2. How have Siri's abilities been perceived over time?

  • Many users believe that Siri's abilities have gotten worse over time, especially since the release of iOS 17.
  • The article cites a quote from a user who says that even basic commands like sending a text message no longer work consistently.
  • The article also references Walt Mossberg's 2016 comments, where he noted that Siri was being treated as a "backwater" by Apple, with the company restricting it to only a few slowly increasing tasks.

[03] AI Hopes on the Horizon

1. What are the rumors about Apple's plans for Siri in the upcoming iOS 18 update?

  • Rumors suggest that Apple is planning to use large-language models to revamp Siri and turn it into the "ultimate virtual assistant."
  • Improvements could come in the form of better natural conversation capabilities and improved user personalization, with Siri potentially retaining conversation information across devices.
  • One specific feature being developed is an improved interaction between Siri and the Messages app, allowing for better auto-completion and answering of complex questions.

2. What are the latest reports on Apple's generative AI plans?

  • More recent reports have claimed that Apple is not planning to debut its own generative AI chatbot in iOS 18.
  • Instead, Apple's first set of new AI features in iOS 18 will not rely on cloud servers at all, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

[04] Move Over Siri?

1. What are the arguments for rebranding Siri and starting over?

  • Some observers suggest that Apple should kill the Siri brand, as it has become universally perceived as not being good.
  • A new name and branding could help Apple distance itself from Siri's past failures and signify a clean break.
  • A fresh start could also help reduce issues like accidental activations, which shorter names like "Siri" often face.
  • First impressions and the long-term effects of Siri's underwhelming performance are cited as reasons for a rebranding.

2. What are the potential risks of rebranding Siri?

  • Siri is deeply integrated into Apple's ecosystem and recognized worldwide, so abandoning the brand could confuse and alienate existing users.
  • Unlike Amazon's Alexa and Google's assistant, Siri has become the butt of numerous jokes, so a new name and persona could potentially revitalize its image.
  • However, Apple would have to ensure that any new product lives up to its promises, as another misstep could be potentially disastrous.
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