Siri, You Don’t Say

by Colin Berkshire
Google slated Siri.
Apple’s Siri and I have never gotten along. I don’t need a personal assistant with a sense of humor. I need a computer assistant that gives me answers. Siri gives enough backlash that it just isn’t fun to use…or usually does it answer my questions.
It’s easy to poke at a new technology that is groundbreaking. The available cheap shots are endless. And, this has been the defense of Siri from the fanboys.
Somewhere long ago I had installed the Google Search app. I don’t even remember when or why. It ended up on one of those dead pages of dead apps. Today I am doing housekeeping and so I am starting up apps and seeing if today is the day I reclaim their bits. That is to say, I didn’t enter the Google app with any expectations except to delete it.
Wow! Was I impressed. I touched the microphone and spoke the flight number I will be on this afternoon. Up popped everything I needed to know about the flight. Out of curiosity I started up Siri (for the first time in months) and did the same thing. It didn’t even recognize what I said.
I went back to the Google app and asked it another question and got an answer. I asked another, and then another and kept getting answers that were useful. Others nearby joined in and we started to play “stump the oracle.” Google won.
By the end of this spontaneous party we all were laughing and everybody was installing the Google Search app. It’s now on my dock in place of Safari.
What I love about the Google search app is not only that its speech recognition seems better, but that it answers my questions. It doesn’t just offer to search the web, it just does it…giving me a specific answer if it can. Ask what the weather is or what time it is or how much 265 Renminbi is in US Dollars and you get an actual answer, not a flippant response from a 20-something kid in tattered jeans.
The simple reality is that the Google Search app works well. It is much more convenient than Siri.
I am tired of Siri having some apologetic excuse every time I try to use it. That behavior is appropriate for an entry-level out of high school intern, not for my assistant.
With the Google app I ask a question and get answers. If it doesn’t have an answer then it shows search results and in one tap I have my answer.
I think Apple has two distinct markets: their fanboys and their open minded professionals that genuinely want superior products. Apple products cost more, and they are high end. They are expected to perform better.
So it really tarnishes the Apple brand when a product as poor as Siri comes out. Compound with with the Apple maps (which cannot concurrently show English and local-language street names) and I start to question whether Apple is serious about professional users. Have they been captured by the fanboys?
I think there is a lesson for all of us in this, no matter what our industry or profession. It is a lesson that my boss told me thirty-five years ago and it still applies today:
“The party has to be as good as the invitation implies.”
Indeed,  I think this is the most important point any marketer should keep in mind. When Apple products cease to be good–or actually become poor–they are genuinely at risk of following the path to oblivion.
Once upon a time Sony made the best of everything. Then, somewhere along the line Sony products weren’t any better and sometimes they were poor. They remained expensive and incompatible. Lets hope that isn’t the future of Apple.
And, this isn’t just a Sony/Apple thing, either. It applies to every great company.
I purchased an HP printer with “HP EPrint” capability for my elderly father. The box and salesman indicated I could send any document to an email address unique to the printer and it would be printed. How nice to be able to send articles and documents to my parents and simply tell them that they are on the printer!
Well, the HP printer is brain dead. The feature works just as advertised.  It what they don’t tell you anywhere is that the document size is strictly limited to a trivially small 5-megabytes. This means you cannot send one single photograph to the printer. You can’t send a scanned business document. You really can’t send it much of anything, actually. This is the top-of-the-line HP inkjet printer, not a stripped down model.
The result is that I will not purchase an HP printer again. They have lost my trust. And, I am not that atypical of other consumers. So I am not going to buy their stock, either.
The HO experience and the Apple experience tells me that the smart phone market is still up for grabs. anybody who assumes that Apple has it locked up is not seeing the handwriting on the wall.
So, my advice to everybody everywhere is to make certain that the features in your products work. You can fool some of the people some of the time. But you cannot fool all of the people all of the time….and therein lies why big companies fail: they begin assuming they are smarter than their customers.
If you are an iPhone user then try the Google search app. It’s pretty incredible. I’ll bet you probably stop using both Siri and Safari.