December 21, 2014

iPhone 4S with Siri – What will it mean to business?

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iPhone 4S Voice Engine Siri Has Users Singing Its Praises – Literally

The initial disappointment among some Apple fans surrounding the debut of the iPhone 4S – and not the much-anticipated iPhone 5 – has turned into lots of gushing about one new feature: the voice recognition engine Siri.

Consider this review from TechCrunch:

Yes, others have done voice controls before — even Apple has had them baked into iOS for a few years. But most, including Apple’s previous attempt, have been awful. Others, like Google’s voice services built into Android, are decent. Siri is great…The amount of times Siri hasn’t been able to understand and execute my request is astonishingly low. I’ll say something that I’m sure Siri won’t be able to understand, and it gets it.

Or consider this gushing segment from David Pogue at the New York Times:

Speech recognition. Crazy good, transformative, category-redefining speech recognition…..

Siri is billed as a virtual assistant: a crisply accurate, astonishingly understanding, uncomplaining, voice-commanded minion. No voice training or special syntax is required; you don’t even have to hold the phone up to your head. You just hold down the phone’s Home button until you hear a double beep, and then speak casually.

You can say, “Wake me up at 7:35,” or “Change my 7:35 alarm to 8.” You can say, “What’s Gary’s work number?” Or, “How do I get to the airport?” Or, “Any good Thai restaurants around here?” Or, “Make a note to rent ‘Ishtar’ this weekend.” Or, “How many days until Valentine’s Day?” Or, “Play some Beatles.” Or, “When was Abraham Lincoln born?”

Pretty heady stuff.  When you start thinking about what this kind of capability will mean to businesses, it starts to boggle the mind a bit – especially since Siri is poised to be open to developers.

Siri the Game-Changer – and Google Killer(?)

Over at Mashable, the venture capitalist Gary Morgenthaler (who apparently benefited when Apple acquired the company Siri in 2010), says Siri “crossed a threshold” because it combines speech recognition with understanding. What’s more, Siri the company implemented more than 45 APIs before Apple acquired it and Morgenthaler fully expects Apple will make those APIs available to iOS developers. And that, he says, could be a game-changer, and one that poses a great threat to Google.

“Google has made a huge contribution to all of our lives … they’ve made search comprehensive and instantaneous … but the whole paradigm is wrong,” he says. “[People] don’t want a million blue links, they want one correct answer. All the rest is noise that you’d rather have go away.

“Apple has the opportunity to really understand the question that you’re asking, and apply semantic knowledge such that [Siri] will deliver you the right answer, or a small set of highly relevant answers.”

When that happens, Morgenthaler says, all the steps that typically comprise an online search, including the ads served against search results, become completely irrelevant. He believes Apple can and will circumvent this search experience, passing consumers to merchants by way of Siri — and earning a finders fee for doing so. Under this paradigm, Google could be completely forgotten.

On his blog at Harvard Business Review, James Allworth of the Harvard Business School similarly posits that Siri will reach far beyond smart phones.

Of course, the computer is going to benefit, but the potential hardly stops there. Take television. Why bother with remotes and complicated TV guides covering hundreds of channels? “Siri, is there any football on right now? When is my team next playing? Could you record it for me?”

Siri Is Fun – Even in Song

How this all evolves remains to be seen. But what is of little doubt right now is that iPhone 4S users are having good fun asking Siri oddball questions. It’s quite evident that Apple engineers fully expected this phenomenon and armed Siri with some quality answers. Start at the 1:40 mark in this video from Geeky Gadgets for some examples.

My favorite: “I need to hide a body.” Siri’s answer: “What kind of place are you looking for: dumps, mines, metal foundries, swamps, reservoirs.”

The singer Jonathan Mann literally turned asking questions of Siri into an art form, and his duet with Siri has gone viral, scoring more than 1 million views on YouTube.

Among the lines: “Who’s your daddy?”  “You are. Can we get back to work now?”

So stay tuned to how Google responds and get ready for some mind-blowing apps to be developed using Siri in the not too distant future.  Apple re-invented the cellphone when the first iPhone came out.  The “category redefining” introduction of Siri might change it all over again.

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