Is Siri a failure?

The chirpy assistant reacts sluggishly, stumbles with voice-recognition, and often lacks the right answers. Time for Apple to fess up?

Almost eight months after Siri's debut on the iPhone 4S, Apple CEO Tim Cook is still promising improved versions of the faulty voice assistant.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

If you're not Zooey Deschanel, Siri probably doesn't work that well for you. Some insiders have called the iPhone 4S assistant's well-documented unresponsiveness an embarrassment to Apple, and several industry insiders have said that late founder Steve Jobs would never have let such a flawed product reach consumer hands. Yet earlier this week, chief executive Tim Cook publicly declared that Apple was "doubling down" on Siri because "consumers love it," raising more than a few eyebrows. Given the increasingly noisy backlash, is it finally safe to say that Siri's a dud?

Yes, undoubtedly: "Siri's voice recognition isn't very good, and her response times are often lousy," says Henry Blodget at Business Insider. But the bigger problem is that Apple, apparently in denial, is still hyping Siri with big name celebs in nationally televised ad campaigns. You can bet Steve Jobs would have either killed Siri outright or at least pulled her back, hammering engineers until they fixed her. Apple's future may hinge on Siri's success, "but that's still no excuse for continuing to flog a product that's not ready for prime time." Siri's an embarrassment.

"Frankly, it's concerning that Apple is still advertising a product as flawed as Siri"

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Actually, there's a method to the madness: "Blodget and others are fundamentally off base," says Eric Jackson at Forbes. Contrary to popular belief, Steve Jobs wouldn't have called Siri back to tuck her away in some lab for a year; that's not how you improve search. "You need massive amounts of data," which Apple is currently getting given how many people own the Siri-equipped iPhone 4S. The TV spots are helping drive search, providing Apple with truckloads of invaluable information. You can bet that by her first birthday, Siri will be vastly improved.

"Why Apple is smart to double down on Siri"

Plus Siri could be Google's kryptonite: On the surface, Siri sucks, says Joe Wilcox at Beta News, but Cook is right to "double down." If Apple can perfect voice search on mobile, it will surpass chief rival Google and "the game changes." If Siri starts delivering as advertised, Apple gets yet another stranglehold on a new product category that didn't exist before, just like the iPod and iPhone before it. Siri is a calculated risk, because Apple knows that "whoever wins mobile search takes the prize."

"Siri sucks"

Watch a cutting parody of Zooey Dechanel's Siri ad:

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