Here's Why Apple's Siri Has Lost to Rival Alexa

Angelo Anderson
March 17, 2018

A new report from The Information details the development of Siri, based on speaking with a dozen former Apple employees who were responsible for Siri's development and integration. He was supposed to help lead the team.

Apple's intelligent personal assistant, Siri, is nearly seven years old now, while Google Assistant hasn't even completed two years yet. No other phone had anything like it, and Apple knew it.

It's no secret that Siri is way behind other voice assistants like the Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa when it comes to comprehension and total number of skills.

The Information also found that Siri's infrastructure had big gaps in scalability from the start which led to major issues for years. Back then, Apple had no plans to incorporate Siri into the speaker, but the company eventually changed its mind after the Amazon Echo was launched in late 2014, the latest report reveals.

This has become such a huge problem to the point where Apple can't decide if they'd rather rip up the entire thing and start from scratch, or continue patching it and improving it over time.

At its inception, Siri was envisioned as a platform that developers could freely tap into, an "App store for AI" that would allow users to "orchestrate the internet through conversation".

The team that was in charge of developing Siri had a change in leadership: Scott Forstall, the iOS chief at the time, moved his attention to Apple's newest project back then, Apple Maps, and enlisted the help of Richard Williamson. The digital assistant marked its debut on the Apple iPhone 4s - the first smartphone Tim Cook announced as he tried fitting in the shoes of the ailing Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs died the day after Siri was introduced, and the project lost its coherent, driving vision. The novelty of Siri, which introduced the ability to respond to voice commands like creating reminders, scheduling calendar events, or looking up information on the weather, were some neat little tricks that attracted Apple fans. The back-end software struggled to keep up, and the Siri team scrambled to improve the bug-ridden and unoptimized code to make it operate at such a large scale.

After the flop of Apple Maps, both Forstall and Williamson was sacked by Apple, in a move that one may call poetic justice, due to their bad leadership tactics.

The report from The Information paints a grim picture, but the experience of using Siri over the years makes it ring true.

Right now, it looks like Siri won't be blown up and a rebuilt. The article relies primarily on the words of former employees, with less insight into the current development of Siri.

Stasior led Apple's 2013 decision to purchase Topsy, a Twitter search tool that would be used in both Siri and Spotlight, Apple's system search tool. In other words, it moved from the "Apple Maps and Apple Music" guy to the "macOS and iOS" guy. Siri's unit had multiple managers starting 2011, one year before its launch. "Those problems lie entirely with the original Siri team, certainly not me", added Williamson.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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