A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Siri still sucks even though it has been around for seven years. Google Assistant and Alexa have easily surpassed it in terms of functionality and usability even though they showed up much later. It makes you wonder if Apple is oblivious to this fact or if it’s simply unable to fix the problem.
According to a new in-depth report from The Information, in which it interviewed dozens of former Apple employees, the Cupertino giant is aware that Siri sucks but has been unable to course correct due to a number of reasons.
In the report, multiple Apple employees own up to the fact that Siri just isn’t very good. However, it isn’t because Apple doesn’t know what it’s doing, but rather due to some key decisions high ranking Apple executives made that forever delayed Siri’s development, leading to its current state.
A key admission of the Apple employees is that Apple rushed to include Siri in the iPhone 4s even though it wasn’t ready. This led to a major choice for the Apple team: fix the broken product or start over from scratch. Apple opted to fix Siri, continuing forward with a very flawed product.
The person in charge of Siri was iOS chief Scott Forstall, but at the time of Siri’s launch, his plate was full with launching Apple Maps, so he passed off the task to Richard Williamson. Williamson subsequently made a series of questionable decisions pertaining to Siri’s development, with the most notable being to only improve Siri once a year with major iOS updates. It completely stalled Siri’s early development.
One of the most interesting details of the report is that Apple didn’t inform the Siri team of the HomePod’s development even though it had been in the works for multiple years. In fact, originally the HomePod was set to launch without Siri.
In a sign of how unprepared Apple was to deal with a rivalry, two Siri team members told The Information that their team didn’t even learn about Apple’s HomePod project until 2015—after Amazon unveiled the Echo in late 2014. One of Apple’s original plans was to launch its speaker without Siri included, according to a source.
Apple ended up including Siri in the HomePod, but given its limited functionality, it isn’t a major selling point of the high end speaker. The former Apple employees blame this for the reported lackluster demand of the HomePod.
To combat Siri’s slow development, Apple introduce SiriKit in 2016 to build up the third-party developer ecosystem that the voice assistant lacks. But this hasn’t yielded the results Apple hoped for as only 10 intent domains, which is the same thing as Alexa’s skills, have developed.
Apple responded to The Informant’s report in its usual PR statement that most focuses on what Siri can do instead of what it can’t do. Optimistic outlook aside, Apple has fallen behind with Siri and unless it can turn the voice assistant around soon, it risks falling far behind the competition for good.