Siri might have more users than Alexa and the Google Assistant thanks to the iPhone, but Apple’s digital assistant can’t compete when it comes to actual smarts. The AI struggles when it comes to understanding what a person is saying compared to its rivals, plus it can’t perform as many tasks due to paltry third-party support.
The Information is out with a new report which attempts to explain how Apple managed to waste its lead over Amazon and Google, with the help of about a dozen former Apple employees who were around during Siri’s development. The saga begins in 2010 when the company bought the original Siri app with an eye on integrating it into the iPhone 4S.
This did happen in 2011, but what wasn’t well known until now was that Siri’s release was rushed. The virtual assistant was built on a flawed foundation which still hasn’t been fixed all these years later. Some engineers have wanted to rebuild it from scratch, but that would be a massive undertaking which doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen anytime soon.
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Siri apparently floundered in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death in 2011, just a day after the AI was unveiled. Apple lost its vision for the project, with an internal divide between people who wanted Siri to quickly respond to information requests and people who wanted the assistant to perform more complicated tasks.
Fingers are also being pointed at former Apple exec Richard Williamson who apparently wanted to update Siri once a year in step with iOS releases instead of consistently upgrading it like Amazon and Google currently do. The company was reportedly completely unprepared for the rise of Alexa.
It seems Apple was working on its own speakers as far back as 2012, but wasn’t planning on including Siri inside. This changed with the launch of the Echo in 2014, prompting the brand to scramble and change its plans. But it only told the Siri team about this pivot in 2015.
This goes a long way in explaining why Siri feels so half-baked in the HomePod. Many reviewers have praised its audio skills, but criticized how backward the digital assistant is compared to Alexa and Assistant. The smart speaker also has a long way to go in terms of third-party support.