To many people, Apple’s new digital assistant ‘Siri’ is just another wiz-bang gadget from Apple that will mostly appeal to techies and teenagers. I disagree. Not because I think Siri is for everyone, but because I think believe that Apple has once again taken something that we use all the time – web searching in this instance – and taken it to a level we didn’t even know was an option.
We shouldn’t be surprised – this is just what Apple (and Steve Jobs) does. There are multiple examples – the mouse, track wheel, multi-function touch screens – all were developed by Apple and today we could barely function without them.
“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” – Steve Jobs
But what’s more impressive – that Apple created these tools or that they AGAIN came up with something (Siri) that we didn’t know we needed and will quickly feel that we’ve simply always had it?
Apple’s combination of technology skill and ingenuity often results in what I like to call a Paradigm Shift. They ‘change the way we do things’.
To prove my point, let’s take another Apple idea – the App Store – and see if we can draw any parallels to Siri. Before the App Store, you could order new tools for your phone, but you there was no free market for developers to get those apps to the end consumer. Basically everything you purchased was made and distributed by the wireless carrier. Suddenly the App Store changed everyone’s perception of what we should expect from our phones. Don’t like the calendar? Get a new app. Want a new game? Just download it. Want a better calculator? Grab it. Suddenly the iPhone wasn’t just a phone – it became a platform for productivity and entertainment. If your phone couldn’t do apps….booooooring. This was a major shift in the way we think about and use our phones.
Siri is another great example of how Apple took an idea (voice recognition) that was not necessarily new, and added a huge design factor that suddenly made it simple and easy to use. Siri is the first system that truly understands complex questions like “Should I bring an umbrella to work today?” Droid only understands basic commands like “send text”, “call Patrick” or “email John”. So instead of sending me to Google to answer my question, Siri repeats back my question while simultaneously performing a search and providing me a real answer. This is a huge change.
Siri is for dreamers everywhere. While Siri isn’t as sophisticated enough to become your own personal secretary, soon, she might be. One day I’ll be able to say, “Siri, go to Amazon and buy me the new dog bowl. Have it shipped to my work and tell them I don’t need anyone to sign for it.” Siri will then log into my Amazon account, ask you if I’m willing to spend $10 out the door on the item, she’ll “buy it now”, place the order, and take care of payment through PayPal. After that, she’ll order you dinner and setup your service appointment at the dealership.
The more meaningful innovation that comes from Siri is that she will likely change our expectations for other products in the future. She will change the way with think about other products in the future. This is a sort of paradigm shift for voice recognition related technologies everywhere. Other products are now going to have to step it up or be left behind the dust of another Apple design award. Android is already working hard to build the next Siri. Sorry Charlie – you’re too late.