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It's a bot, bot, bot world. Also, Apple is doomed!

Apple is the new Blackberry is the latest twist on "Apple is DOOMED". Apple may be missing out on Artificial Intelligence and/or Machine Learning. With the hype of products such as Amazon's Echo, a.k.a Alexa, Facebooks "bots", and Google's new Assistant, clearly, there's a huge sea change that's happening, and Apple is going to be left out. Apple will still be selling beautiful sheets of glass, driven by apps, while the rest of industry moves up to the brains. Much like Blackberry refused to evolve against the threat of the iPhone. Makes sense. Except it doesn't.

State of the assistants

Alexa, OK Google, Siri, and Cortana—none of them come close to being an AI from my perspective. If these were truly personal assistants, I'd fire all of them.

Alexa, OK Google, Siri, and Cortana—none of them come close to being an AI from my perspective. If these were truly personal assistants, I'd fire all of them.

For the most part, they handle some rudimentary tasks pretty well. Call this person, play that song, give me the weather forecast. Get much beyond those tasks and they all tend to choke. Sure, it's cool that the Echo can tie into the Luetron lighting in my house. It's cool that I can say "Alexa, turn the right side on", and the lights magically appear. Ask, "turn on the right side", and Alexa has no idea what I'm talking about.

Ok Google, Siri, and the like all use somewhat different syntax and all suffer from their own gaps in understanding. A "bot" that lets me order a pizza through 47 interactions is hardly superior to an app I can tap my way through. Or, you know, just calling and ordering. It's certainly not ground breaking assistive technology,

Siri

Second, let's not forget it's Apple that pioneered this technology and brought it mainstream. Siri was a brilliant acquisition by Apple, and Siri works as well as, if not better than, anything else on the market.

If there's one area where Siri could improve it would be third party support. Google has promised to allow third parties to tie into it's AI, and Amazon already offers third party connections (albeit through somewhat awkward interactions). And they're all still somewhat limited.

Ask Alexa to play a song it best be in Prime or in your library. Google is happy to play anything from Google Music and, of course Siri speaks best to your iOS library or Apple Music. These are glitches that will almost certainly be fixed—Echo already supports Spotify for example—but they're not all fixed now.

What comes next

There are rumors that Apple will release a Siri API this year. Of course, there have been similar rumors every year since Siri itself was released. Whether or not Apple does open up Siri won't have anything to do with philosophy. This is the company, after all, that put iTunes on Windows. Apple will gladly forgo exclusivity when it opens significant new markets.

The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey set the standard for AI, and arguably the natural language interface. Nothing has come close to that, and perhaps that's not a bad thing.

I don't think I personally would like an AI that responds to me in a perfect conversational tone but tries to lock me out of my house, and then tries to kill me. I have little doubt that Apple can and will compete in the age of AI, bots and all.

But I'm also confident that any technology Apple brings to market will adhere to Tim Cook's leadership, and his view that Apple technology is created to make the world a better place.

I hope other vendors are thinking the same way.

I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.

41 Comments
  • Siri has been a huge disappointment since Apple bought it. The original Siri app could do so much more than what Siri does today! I'm not sure if Apple can compete in the so called AI race given their current stance on privacy and security. Google is able to make a much better assistant because they have been collecting data in their users for years. Will Apple suddenly not be able to sell iPhones? I don't think so. But depending on if Google doesn't make this available to iOS users or if Apple makes it to restrictive to offer the same experience as on Android remains to be seen. Sent from the iMore App
  • I use Siri everyday to do things like set timers, place phone calls, and tell me what the weather is going to be.
  • "The original Siri app could do so much more than what Siri does today!" So what are the functionalities that Apple removed from the original Siri? Whatever, you've been watching too much YouTube and read too much Business Insider.
  • Apple collects data to, but not as much as Google does, or the was Google does it, but they collect lots of it. Now, as for this assistant. If Apple actually uses this Vocal IQ tech that they have, it going to be an absolute game changer. From what's being said about this thing, it's actually able to truly, brake down & understand what it's being told, most importantly remembers FOREVER! like a human (or closest to it). It remembers, what u say & applies it to anything else u ask it, in the future. Insane! Now, if u look at Googles CEO at the Recode conference, he says that AI remembering and understanding is something that there trying to achieve, as a future out look, but this Apple owned Vocal IQ tech is doing this right now.
  • Luddite here. I simply don't want to talk to my phone or other device.
  • This is my problem too, and a giant disappointment particularly in HomeKit interactions, for which Siri is the only way to access some of the functionality. Talking to my electronic devices makes me uncomfortable and I don't want to do it. It's fine to ENABLE Siri as a means of controlling the device. It's not fine to make it MANDATORY.
  • Sir would be way more useful if Apple had allowed third party access to the API soon after Siri was released by Apple. Apple could maintain privacy if Siri was partially offloaded to do more locally on the phone and keep the learning from your use local or shared between your devices.
  • Lol you guys are definitely on the back foot with all these defending articles or just click bait. Do you even use Google to know how better it is? I thought you guys don't use Google because you don't want to share the data with Google. So you will probably never know how good OK Google is and just leave inside Apple bubble.
  • I bet you guys are really pleased with this hire....
  • He spreads the Kool Aid as much as Rene. Posted from my Nexus 6P
  • Well you own a Nexus 6p and I think you know how good Google now is. I love it so much knows what I am interested in and where my package is also good offline respond
  • Apple is not doomed, but let's go with the facts: No excitement coming from Apple. No revolutionary changes in phone tech coming from Apple. iPad will also just improve incrementally. Mac's? About the same, certainly not gonna compete on performance as they are waaaaay behind there. iTunes? Maybe if you're interested in wrecking your music collection. Siri? Good for reminders, not much else. iPhotos/photos whatever it's name is this week: Only if you want to wreck your photo collection and deal with duplicates, etc. iCloud? Really? Talk about useless mess. Apple will be around a long time, but there's nothing exciting to see here. Every year the speculations of Apple's next release overestimate the eventual release of a product with a slight incremental upgrade. 3D Touch? Really, it's just a stupid gimmick that isn't even supported on all new products (iPhone SE, iPad pro 9.7). Way to go Apple on hanging that out to die!
  • Agreed with this. Apple isn't in trouble, but it's also not the same Apple. This article is just so iMore. Real enthusiasts don't defend the missteps of their favorite company, they demand more from it.
  • lets see what happens at WWDC 2016
  • "I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that – HAL 900" I think you're missing a "0".
  • hehe I wish SIri would actually say that just once in that voice.
  • Siri has been a disappointment. Look at apps like hound setting the bar. Siri is pretty and its deeply intergrated but at the end of the day when you put lip stick on pig its still a pig. Apple is too slow to make it something better.
  • RE: "...and Siri works as well as, if not better than, anything else on the market."
    Pfft!! I'll give you points for comedy.
  • Anyone who claims that Siri is better than anything else on the market has never used anything else that is on the market.
  • Hall 900? Luetron? What's going on at iMore that Mr. Gartenberg's articles never seem to be properly edited?
  • I'm not even commenting (!)
    So tired of the Doom thingy
  • Apple pioneered nothing. They bought Siri and gimped it compared to what it could do before Apple made it exclusive to iOS instead of the original app. You are calling sour grapes on machine learning and artificial intelligence as Apple is clearly the furthest behind when it comes to this. Posted from my Nexus 6P
  • the technology yes.... Nuance..
  • Rumors of 'Siri on the desktop', rumors of 'Siri API'. I suspect these would be released together.
    Apple gonna do what Apple gonna do. It will begin to make more sense after they do it.
    "Doomed" because of what they might or might not do? Idle speculation...
  • Siri is pretty much garbage to Google Now and I hate to say (it as I hate Microsoft) Cortana as well. Why hasn't Apple added location based reminders like Cortana and so on? Sent from the iMore App
  • They do have location based reminders... Sent from the iMore App
  • I don't think so, when I asked Siri to remind me to text my sister when I got home, it didn't remind me. Sent from the iMore App
  • That's because it didn't work. But Siri does have Location based reminders.
  • Yes same experience here and now with Google it is just working
  • Apple is not doomed. I do not believe Apple needs a stand alone product like echo. But calling Siri as good as Google now, cortana or Alexa is crazy. Siri is ok doing first party actions but without any third party integration or a decent proactive feature Siri is limited.
  • The bots are gonna enslave us all. Run for the hills!!
  • This article, tho. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • "Second, let's not forget it's Apple that pioneered this technology and brought it mainstream. Siri was a brilliant acquisition by Apple, and Siri works as well as, if not better than, anything else on the market." Bruhhh.....
  • I don't need an assistant I need to show me things before they happened or asking where my package is instead of looking on my own. I want my watch to know what's up next and when I look at it it is there and not asking for it and I think that is what apple has to learn but now apple is at a point where they have to make a decision which way to go.
  • 1. This doomsayer article is straight up Stupid 2. And, all the Siri haters in this posting are downright Stupid.
    Fact, you guys have not truly tried to learn about the technology, or have nothing better to do with your time but b*tch and complain. The version of Siri out there does exactly what it was designed to do within the technologies limitations. Tech is an evolution of ideas. that gets better with time, if people could seriously learn patience. The number 1 reason Siri development has been glacial, is Apple is trying to protect your privacy. Just ask Google, Microsoft and Amazon about their users data privacy. They could care less the use of your data. Googles main and probably only revenue is derived from ads mined off the users data. Doing a little research into the matter, I firmly believe, Apple has found it's path to protect your information while advancing Siri development. WWDC will be what many to consider a reboot of a totally different Siri. If Apple taps into a few of it's acquisitions, Siri will become, contextual and actually learn its users preferences with a very short period time becoming more personalized to the users needs. Just look up VocalIQ. No other 'assistant' out there has the ability to remember squat past the session that is being worked on at the moment it's spoken, including the recently demoed, VIV. Pretty much, GoogleNow, Cortana, and Alexa are all garbage on top of the major personal data issue they all have. The info is out there if you do your research. VocalIQ has some very, very interesting older videos that are still in YouTube. They are a little dated, but this proves they have been working at this kind of tech a very long time. I can see why Apple bought them before they even had a chance to release an app. The beauty of Siri is integration with the hardware. None of the other 'assistants' do this. Apple might not be the first in the room to release cool, new interesting stuff, but when they do step in the room, stand back. No doubt, they have something to really make the others stop think and often poorly copy. They have always developed at their own pace and will only release something when it makes sense within the factors needed or allowed. The main focus has always been the customer experience and what is best for us the consumer. And I'm not going to say, Siri is the best thing out there, It's not. But I will say, it works for me controlling things on the phone, communications etc and my home through HomeKit. Apple had it's vision that started with Jobs back in 1997 "The Knowledge Navigator" Look it up on YouTube. A promotional video produced by George Lucas of Star Wars. At the time shows us what Jobs and crew was thinking about back then. Siri was introduced and introduced within 2 wks of the fictional date produced in the video clip. Apple has more vision more than most Android lovers have a clue about or can understand. The really do blueprint the future for the rest to take note of.
  • Am I, like, the only one who uses Siri, Google Now and Cortana on a regular basis? And I mean ALL 3 on a regular basis, since I use different platforms daily. The whole Siri argument thing in the comments just made my head spin for a bit...
  • Whenever someone goes all strawman by satirically stating "Apple is doomed" (which no one has ever claimed ... seriously no one has ever claimed that people are going to for some reason stop buying iPhones and Macs) then they are just playing dumb games. Look, there are a ton of great companies out there with very good executives, strong product managers, and fine R&D and tech people. This means ... that Apple is not going to be the very best at every single thing all the time. Other companies are going to come out with better products in some areas. One area that will always be a weakness for Apple is software and services. Why? Because Apple is a hardware company. Getting as good as Microsoft, Google and the rest at software and services would require the sort of total reinventions that NCR and IBM went through. And as NCR and IBM's profits have been declining for many years, that is not the sort of reinvention that any Apple fan would want. Other companies being better do not equate to Apple being doomed. Especially when those other companies are lining up to put their software and services on Apple's outstanding hardware whenever possible.
  • Gartenberg's issue is that he doesn't seen to have more than passing familiarity with what "the competition" is doing. With that said, although I agree with him (voice assistant tech is only a little better than a novelty) It is improving all of the time, on all platforms. We might as well embrace it now. I use Google Now everyday for searches, driving navigation, sending messages and initiating phone calls. It's marginally more convenient than direct interaction. Once we can stack more actions and commands in the way that Hound is attempting, all bets are off.
  • Sorry, you lost me at..."Siri works as well as, if not better than, anything else on the market".
  • So it looks like you got your 3rd party request. That was timely.
  • What issue I think Apple should eleminate is that fact that Siri dont seem to understand people with accents and if it does, you have to select the country you're from...That been said, if they could really make siri in such a way that it can automatically recognize the individual accent then thats one language barrier down...I say this becuase I'm Jamaican but I speak English very well. There are still certain words I'll say and my accent will come forth but when that happens siri is, well, no help.