Tag Archives: Speech

Motivating Siri

For many reasons, Apple’s entry into a category tends to stimulate broader consumer technology press consideration. Watch is a great recent example, where Cupertino’s entrant was neither the first, most featured, nor most affordable.

Today Mark Gurman broke the rumor broke that Apple would introduce “Proactive”1 at WWDC, something that looks a lot like Google Now – a cool technology that’s been in market for years.

The contrast between today’s Siri and Google Now is so stark that it’s arguable they are different categories. Whereas Siri is like an obedient and (mostly) charming servant who is fluent in a narrow range of things (and happy to search the web for everything else), Google Now tries to go far beyond that to anticipate what might information be helpful in any given moment. What kind of admin would you prefer: the one that was mostly competent when you ask for something very specific, or the one that’s proactive (clevah)?

But there’s a fine line between an admin with a bias for action, and one that pesters. Don Draper probably doesn’t want to be interrupted when he’s sleeping it off. Getting the delivery of proactivity right is tricky. Again the Watch is a good example: once people were wearing a notification endpoint on their body, the normal volume of notifications were overwhelming to many, and a frequent early complaint.

I’ve always thought Siri’s passive approach (tell me what you want) limited it to scenarios where voice input was both more efficient and socially acceptable – like in a car. Google Now, is not bounded nearly as much. This data would support that:

Google Now vs. Siri vs. Cortana

Google Now vs. Siri vs. Cortana (Source: PhoneArena, April 2015)

Much as Android gives Google easy access to personal information in your Gmail, Google Calendar, search history, Google Maps, etc., it looks like Apple is ready to use its access to their analogues in iOS, OS X, iCloud to offer something that goes far beyond what they’ve had. Siri is getting off his/her duff.

I think another interesting angle here is Apple’s ability to promise — quite credibly, since they make their money off hardware and transactions — that its version of a Personal Assistant will not be there to sell you ads.

Perhaps it’s coincidence, but I think the recent presence of Watch in the endpoint mix makes the timing great for Proactive’s introduction. Even though the notification tuning was poor out of the gate for Watch, the device’s location and haptics give Proactive a much richer canvas.

It’s possible that Apple’s control of its atoms and pixels gives it chance to introduce a far more personal Personal Assistant.

1 Is it me, or does that name sound like an acne med?