Soon enough, one hopes, to save Apple’s HomePod from unflattering comparisons to Amazon’s Alexa.
John Gruber was interviewing Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi, two top Apple execs, for a live episode of his Talk Show Tuesday when someone in the standing-room-only audience shouted out the question that had been hovering over this year’s Apple developer’s conference like a buzzing drone.
“When does Siri get better?”
To my surprise, Gruber either didn’t hear the question or chose not to ask it—even after Schiller warned him not to hold anything back.
Two days later, I still don’t know how Siri will be fixed—or if will be done before the scheduled release in December of HomePod, the Siri-powered speaker system that Schiller unveiled on Monday.
But thanks to Tripp Mickle’s reporting in today’s Wall Street Journal I have a new appreciation of how much work there is to do. The story is a deep dive into, as Mickle puts it, “How Apple’s Siri Lost Her Mojo.”
A small, poignant sample:
Siri was one of Mr. Jobs’s last major new products. He became a fan in 2010 when it was launched by a small startup as a digital-assistant app for iPhones. In 30 phone calls over 45 days, he persuaded its founders to sell, according to Gary Morgenthaler, a Siri investor. He then pushed them to fine-tune a handful of features that would work flawlessly across millions of iPhones in multiple languages.
Touted as “the best feature” of the iPhone 4s in 2011 by Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller, Siri converted words to text and interpreted their meaning to describe the weather or make calendar appointments and helped fuel a 73% increase in iPhone shipments in its first year. A day after the announcement, Mr. Jobs died.
Mickle names several executives who took the ball and either dropped it or ran with it in the wrong direction, according to former Apple employees. He also quotes (lamely), Eddy Cue, the Apple senior vice president whose portfolio includes Siri.
“We’re very happy with where the company is from an innovation standpoint. It’s part of our DNA.”