Why was Siri, the iPhone 4S intelligent assistant, launched as a beta, something very unusual for Apple? Benoit Maison published a blog post which might just explain the reason.

I worked on speech recognition with IBM Research for nearly six years. We participated in DARPA-sponsored research projects, field trials, and actual product development for various applications: dictation, call centers, automotive, even a classroom assistant for the hearing-impaired. The basic story was always the same: get us more data! (data being in this case transcribed speech recordings). There is even a saying in the speech community: “there is no data like more data“. Some researchers have argued that most of the recent improvements in speech recognition accuracy can be credited to having more and better data, not to better algorithms.

While some may think it was not in Apple's best interest to release something so rough around the edges, getting millions of users on Siri might just be the best, fastest way to get it polished. (That and those extra people Apple is putting on the Siri team.)

Source: Benoit Maison