Kontra: Is Siri really Apple’s future?

“Siri is a promise. A promise of a new computing environment, enormously empowering to the ordinary user, a new paradigm in our evolving relationship with machines,” Kontra writes for Counternotions. “Siri could change Apple’s fortunes like iTunes and App Store…or end up being like the useful-but-inessential FaceTime or the essential-but-difficult Maps or the desirable-but-dead Ping. After spending hundreds of millions on acquiring and improving it, what does Apple expect to gain from Siri, at once the butt of late-night TV jokes but also the wonder of teary-eyed TV commercials?”

“Siri’s opportunity here to win the hearts and minds of users is to change the rules of the game from relatively rigid, linear and largely decontextualized CLI search towards a much more humane approach where the user declares his intent but doesn’t have to tell Siri how do it every step of the way,” Kontra writes. “The user starts a spoken conversation with Siri, and Siri puts an impressive array of services together in the background.”

Kontra writes, “Google has spent enormous amounts of money on an army of PhDs, algorithm design, servers, data centers and constant refinements to create a global search platform. The ROI on search in terms of advertising revenue has been unparalleled in internet history. Apple’s investment in Siri has a much shorter history and far smaller visible footprint. While it’d be suicidal for Apple to attack Google Search in the realm of finding things, can Apple sustainably grow Siri to its fruition nevertheless? Very few projects at Apple that don’t manage to at least provide for their own upkeep tend to survive. Given Apple’s tenuous relationship with direct advertising, is there another business model for Siri?”

Much more in the full article – very highly recommended – here.

Related articles:
Why does Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer consider Apple’s Siri the perfect search engine? – October 19, 2012
Apple hires Amazon A9 exec Stasior to run Siri unit – October 15, 2012
25 new fun things to ask Apple’s souped up Siri in iOS 6 – September 21, 2012
Google admits Siri is the future of web search, introduces Siri-like app for iOS (with video) – August 8, 2012


  1. Very few products that fail to provide upkeep? How about being responsible for helping Apple sell its number one product: the iPhone which is well over 40% of Apples total revenue? Is that worth something?

  2. Google? Pff. In this day and age Google doesn’t even have a proper query language, where conditions can be combined with AND and OR, including nesting. Parsing natural language will be quite a bit more difficult.
    Sounds like Siri is several years ahead of Google.

  3. An associate was delighted to find Siri could take his voice message and send it as a text message while driving.

    Neat, clean, no fuss, minimal distraction that’s no worse than a passenger.

  4. I find Siri extremely usable for certain things and terribly disappointing for others. I’ve decided to enjoy it for what it does well and am hopeful these other areas will be addressed.

    But, if I were an engineer at Apple I’d be working on a couple of things to make it much easier to use when slower data is available. It makes no sense to me, for example, that Siri has to communicate with a remote server just to access my contacts. When I say, “Call my wife,” that information should be stored locally. Granted, that will add a little bit of bloat to the app’s footprint, but it would be so much smoother.

    In other words, a better Sir would be able to know that there are certain things it can do without leaving the iPhone for the server. Contacts it recognizes, reminders and calendar information should be among them. If the system isn’t sure, then it should go to the server.

    When I’ve got a good data connection, these gripes don’t matter much. But that’s not always the case . . . and when I say, “Call my wife,” and it takes Siri 30 seconds to do what the crappy “voice over” could do in 2 seconds it feels like a step backwards.

    1. I completely agree. Siri is too slow to access contacts, draft a text reply, and it has problems properly interpreting speech over Bluetooth in my car. I see no reason why accessing contacts, calendars, composing texts, etc. need online access.

      1. I also want a unicorn in my back yard, and for Torii Hunter to return to the LA Angels.Go back and re-read the article above, or read it if you did not. Kontra explains what Siri does and how it works. The function is incredibly complex, and typically requires a tremendous level of processing power. We simply take all this for granted.

        People are so impatient. We want it all NOW. Life does not work this way. as a kid, I remember going to the roof for years, having my dad yell up to me to turn the TV antenna this way or that to get decent reception. That’s ancient history today, but the fact is that it took years for television to get where it is today. Google gets a pass as it took the company years to build out its search capabilities, but we expect this from Siri and Apple overnight.

        Natural language processing is one of the most complex computing tasks. In addition, closing the myriad licensing deals with various data providers is complex and expensive. With Scott Forrestal gone, we can only hope the process will accelerate. In addition, as Apple builds new data centers (and this takes time), we can expect to see Siri be more capable. Until any handheld device takes a vast leap in local processing power, we have to be patient. For now, the data center remains the only way to handle such complex (but seemingly trivial) tasks.

    1. so sorry. solomé meant to post into other article. please think of article ‘Euro zone falls into second recession since 2009’ and forgive solomé for stupidity. solomé apologize

  5. I am just not a big fan of the websites that get promoted on the first few searches by paying for it. I don’t mind the ads, because I know it was paid for and that its an AD! minus 1 google.

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