Sunday, November 6, 2011

iPhone 4S one month later - a Siri-ous new development

I previewed the iPhone 4S last month the day after its introduction and I now have two weeks of actual use under my belt. I used it in my office as well as to give a presentation at an international conference. Yes, you can do a great slide show by connecting your iPhone 4 or 4S to a projector. My draft of last month's discussion actually referred to the iPhone 5. It's pretty amazing that dozens of companies were involved in the development of the device and millions were manufactured and the experts were still guessing at the name until the formal announcement.

Predictions concerning hardware where generally accurate - faster processor, much improved camera, more memory, etc. I received mine October 14th - the first available date - and I along with the overwhelming number of reviewers were thrilled with the device. In particular the camera and camera app are outstanding.

The more databases Siri connects to,
the less searches will be performed on Google..

The other half of the announcement was the new operating system - iOS 5. This free evolutionary OS upgrade claims over 200 new features and runs on all recent iPods, iPhones and iPads (see Fragmentation below). To top it off the biggest announcement of the day was not the phone -
but Siri - the "virtual assistant" capability built into the new OS on the iPhone 4S. I expect to see it running on the iPad 2 in the not too distant future.

Siri can interpret spoken language and answer questions or perform tasks as appropriate. The product has a long history dating back to its origin at SRI International, a major research firm once associated with Stanford University. Siri uses the venerable Nuance/Dragon voice recognition software and couples it with an artificial intelligence component that understands what you say and what you mean to perform its duties. You are going to be seeing and hearing all of the wonders of Siri - particularly if your friend has a 4S - and there's not room to discuss it further this month.

Google is certainly threatened by Siri since Siri doesn't provide an outrageously long list of "hits" but instead answers complex questions with specific information. Siri does searches by using direct connections to databases (a restaurant list if you ask about pizza for example) but uses Google and Bing if necessary. The more databases Siri connects to, the less Google searches will be performed and that means less ad revenue for Google.

Many product features can be copied - hopefully without violating too many patents and copyrights. Siri, however, represents such a stunning breakthrough in an area that has been researched for decades, it is unlikely any competitor will come close to its capability anytime soon (see patents and copyrights above).

If you've been on another planet and have not seen a demo, check out this short video on YouTube. Yes, it works that good based on my personal experience. Sometimes when Siri misunderstands you, you realize it's like a new acquaintance - maybe from a different part of the country or of a different age. There is some miscommunication at the beginning until you understand each other better. That's the way Siri appears to me and remember this is Siri V1.0. My opinion about keyboards has always been that the best keyboard is no keyboard and that is just the capability Siri provides - incredibly accurate and fast voice to text translation. It's very likely Siri will be the technology breakthrough of the decade - you heard it here first.

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