So why is Wozniak co-founder of Apple and computer geek extraordinaire lambasting the service? Well it seems that Steve thinks that Apple messed up when they stopped sending the questions to the right places. When Siri was a standalone application for the iPhone it used Wolfram Alpha to get results for its questions. This meant that it was able to return some impressive answers and appeared to understand complex terms.
Unfortunately it was not the software and got the terms but the search engine on the other end (Wolfram Alpha). Now any question (or indeed anything you say) you put to Siri is sent to Apple’s servers to be scrubbed. Apple’s own servers are responsible for determining what you mean and then giving you the proper answer. The issue here is that Apple has shifted Siri to more of a universal search feature. This means that if you ask a question it is going to hit Apple, then it might hit Google or another search engine other than Wolfram Alpha.
As an example Wozniak points to the question “What are the five largest lakes in California?” before Apple bought Siri the service would return the correct answer, now that same question returns listings for lakefront property and other answers that are not near the question. You can still get the answer, but you have to pre-text the question with “Wolfram Alpha”.
Many feel that Siri should not require that to be effective and should meet up to the advertising claims that Apple has about Siri that “Siri understands what you say” and “knows what you mean,”.
The other side of the argument is that people using their phones for voice activated search and tasks are not looking for statistical information. They want to know where traffic is, where the next gas station is and other items like that as they go about their daily business. Apple appears to be catering the service to these people and removing the more factual results from the equation. They have already come under fire for pre-programing a response to the question “What is the best SmartPhone?”. For a while Siri would respond with the Nokia Lumia 900 which was the result as pulled from Wolfram Alpha. After this spread on the interner Apple quickly replaced the answer with a short list of canned and snarky answers like “the one you are holding” or “Are you kidding me?”.
Which is the right answer for Siri? That really depends on where you stand on the information you are given as part of a search request and if you consider Srir a unified search engine (which Apple does according to their own patent filings). Personally we feel that Apple should not be able to return canned answers regardless of the question (or answer).
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