How Apple Fumbled the Voice First Future
Sunday, January 28, 2018 at 10:39PM
Todd Hoff in Apple, Siri, Voice Assistant


Xerox fumbled the future when it invented and then ignored the personal computer. With the Macintosh, Apple created the personal computer the Xerox Alto might have been.

Apple is also fumbling the future—the Voice First future. Voice First simply means our primary mode of interacting with computers in the future will be with our voice. When Apple bought Siri it had a solid 5 year lead in voice control. Now Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant have not only caught Siri, but they’ve surpassed her.

The story of how Apple is fumbling the Voice First future is passionately told by Brian Roemmele in a great interview with Rene Ritchie in his Vector podcast Why Siri needs to be a platform.

Brian covers a lot of ground in the interview, but there are a few main themes: Voice First is the Future; Apple Fumbled Voice First; Engineering First Cultures Suck at Product; Apple Needs to Lose the iPhone Tax and Build Siri as a Platform.

In each section I paraphrase quotes Brian made in the interview to explain the theme. I think you'll find it fun and provocative. Brian is an interesting guy.

Voice First is the Future

Brian mentions several times that he's been thinking about voice interfaces for a long time. If you are interested in more of his work he has his own site: Voice First Expert.

Apple Fumbled Voice First

Engineering First Cultures Suck at Product

This is my favorite theme from the talk. He’s right. Engineers will putter around their digital garden forever. Someone has to have the vision of when it’s time to harvest. If you don't harvest you don't eat.

Apple Needs to Lose the iPhone Tax and Build Siri as a Platform

Microsoft fumbled their future because of the Windows Strategy Tax. Windows was the cash cow and anything internally that threatened the cash cow had its air supply cut off. Look how will Microsoft is doing now that they've stopped that nonsense. 

What I hadn't considered in Siri languished because Apple has an iPhone tax. Everything has to serve the iPhone ecosystem, even the new HomePod, which makes no sense at all. Brian makes a persuasive case that Apple held Siri back from being all it could be because it would compete with iOS. As everyone knows, that's a dead end. 

This is the vision programmers dreamed of when Apple bought Siri. Let's hope there's still time for this dream to come true.


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