Just over nine years ago I received plenty of negative messages from readers who disagreed with my article The Steve Jobs Death Watch. I had no axe to grind against Apple or the company’s CEO but Jobs did not look well. Indeed, he resigned as CEO and died a short time afterwards.
Since his death in 2011, Jobs’ Apple has become CEO Tim Cook’s Apple, a money-making machine, thanks to the iPhone making up about two-thirds of the company’s revenue and profits. The iPhone was Jobs legacy. Cook made it a bigger part of Apple’s legacy. I think we’re on the verge of another legacy enhancement left behind by Steve Jobs.
In 2010, Apple’s co-founder and then-CEO purchased the company that launched the Siri app, and it became a part of the iPhone in late 2011, just before Jobs died.
Siri has become an integral part of Apple’s products, having been adapted into other hardware devices over the years, including newer iPhone models, as well as iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, and Apple TV.
What does Siri do?
The assistant uses voice queries and a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Internet services. The software adapts to users’ individual language usages, searches, and preferences, with continuing use. Returned results are individualized.
That’s Wikipedia talk for what Siri does, but let’s extrapolate the voice interaction system to the future where every major Apple product uses Siri as the interface.
Christopher Mims writing in The Wall Street Journal talks of a day a decade away when Siri rules Apple and the iPhone won’t be a phone. That’s probably not true on any count– 10 years, Siri ruling Apple, and iPhone not a phone– but the idea of a more public and predominant Siri interface makes sense.
As the iPhone this week marks the 10th anniversary of its first sale, it remains one of the most successful consumer products in history. But by the time it celebrates its 20th anniversary, the “phone” concept will be entirely uprooted: That dog-whisperer scenario will be brought to you even if you don’t have an iPhone in your pocket.
In other words, Siri will be as ubiquitous among Apple’s products as the Apple logo. I see this happening now as I use Siri more on my iPhone than ever– she seems to understand my voice better than ever– for everything from opening apps, setting Reminders, Alarms, and Calendar events, to reading Mail, and sending Messages.
Apple’s well known personal intelligent assistant works similarly on iPad and Mac, becomes more convenient in Watch, and navigates Apple TV better than that dumb Apple remote.
Siri is Apple’s future. To a certain extent, Siri isn’t very smart. This isn’t the ‘I, Robot‘ era. Yet. But the handwriting is on the wall and I’m not the only one who sees what’s coming.
Apple’s acquisitions — it buys a company every three to four weeks, Chief Executive Tim Cook has said — tend to be highly predictive of its future moves. Since it first bought Siri in 2010, Apple has continued to make acquisitions in artificial intelligence — Lattice Data, Turi and Perceptio among them, all of which specialize in some form of machine learning. The company is reportedly working on its own chips for AI.
Within the next few years, as Apple rolls out augmented reality to a few hundred million devices, we’ll see Siri become more assertive and more interactive; with faster responses to queries and requests. Indeed, in iOS 11, Siri sounds much more human (more like Google Assistant, and better than Amazon Alexa), more friendly, more helpful. Mims thinks iPhone won’t be a phone (in the way we know phones today) in a decade, and that’s probably wishful thinking.
What we will see is a step-by-step change in how we communicate, navigate, and control a variety of devices that now require individual attention for each one. A single, usable, controllable, commandable (I made that up) interface is a requirement for all these devices which integrate and work together. Siri is that interface from Apple. Siri is Apple’s future (paid for by iPhone, of course).