Apple dissing Siri on iPad is a big mistake

Apple's decision to keep its popular personified assistant off the iPad robs consumers of practical tools that Google tablets already have. Moreover, Apple disrupts its iOS identity.

Voice dictation on iPad
Would "Siri" by any other name sound as sweet? Apple's new iPad has "voice dictation." Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Considering that Apple CEO Tim Cook began the new iPad launch event with statistics including how Siri is everybody's best friend, it's genuinely surprising that Cook didn't reveal Siri for the iPad.

There's still Apple's "voice dictation" software on the iPad, a feature that's tied to the keyboard and simply converts your spoken voice to written text. However, you won't be able to set reminders, search for the weather by asking if you need sunscreen, and there's no sassy, personality-driven bit of artificial intelligence responding back to you.

So why, then, after proclaiming Siri's wonders and exporting "her" to Japan, why after giving her French language skills and an Australian accent, would Apple get cold feet about wedding its anthropomorphic assistant to the iPad?

I think Apple missed two opportunities here. First, voice dictation does not equal voice actions, so excluding the Siri-given ability to vocally launch maps and automatically compose e-mails to friends gives Google's Android tablets a leg up on what you can do on a tablet using just your voice.

Second, integrating Siri into the iPad could have established "her" as a permanent feature of Apple's identity for all its connected devices. Siri quickly became the iPhone 4S' most radical and defining new feature; parlaying that to the iPad just seems obvious.

Android voice actions on the Asus Transformer Prime
Android voice actions on tablets like the Asus Transformer Prime launches e-mails, Web searches, map directions, and more. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The Siri effect
Siri is an extremely clever way to repackage and promote a mostly preexisting voice command feature as if it were an innovation. Yet, many elements of Siri's take on voice actions are justifiably novel, like Apple's "natural language input," which lets you simply pose the question on the tip of your tongue, rather than bark a command.

Siri's deep level of personality and personalization --which had never before existed with voice prompts--is just as significant, if not more so, for putting a human face on a hunk of aluminum and wires.

Do we need Siri on a tablet?
Clearly, Apple didn't think that keeping Siri off the new iPad was detrimental to its product or its business model, and in many ways Apple is right.

The company and its products have a robust following, and the new iPad has strong enough features in the improved gaming cores, camera, and high-definition screen that many people will never miss the convenience of voice-triggered actions. Even in the best of times, voice actions will either fit your personal workflow or they won't.

Yet if you're the type of person who would rather vocally compose a reminder, a message, a calendar appointment, grab directions, and look up stuff than type it out, you may miss Siri.

At any rate, I think it's a shame to see Apple pass on Siri's huge advantage over existing voice commands, one that Google can't yet replicate: relatability. After all, how many people do you see trying to interview , or even date , their Samsung Galaxy Tab?

Now, Apple has given Google a little more breathing room to inset its own Siri-like voice action competitor onto tablets, possibly as soon as later this year.


 

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