Woz: “A lot of people say Siri. I say poo-poo”

The other Steve never shied away from criticizing the company he co-founded with Steve Jobs in his parents’ garage back in 1976. The Times Union chatted briefly with everyone’s favorite geek during his visit to a New York farm of rescued horses and of course the inevitable question of Siri criticism came up. Here’s what came out of him…

The Woz was a big fan of the original Siri app that got removed prior to the iPhone 4S launch last October, as much as to tell family and friends about it and how “this was the future: speaking things in normal ways, feeling like you’re talking to a human and how Siri was the greatest program”.

According to the paper:

A lot of people say Siri. I say poo-poo. I was using it to make reservations long before Apple bought it.

Describing his experience with the original Siri app, he pointed out how it used to excel at digging up some impressive factual answers:

I would say, ‘Siri, what are the five largest lakes in California?’ and it would come up, one, two, three, four, five. And I would ask ‘What are the prime numbers greater than 87?’ and they would come up all in a row. That was pretty incredible.

Then came Apple, Woz said, slowly pointing his thumb down.

‘What are the largest lakes in California?’ I’d get all these lakefront properties. And I’d say ‘What are the prime numbers greater than 87?’ And I’d get prime rib.

Of course, you could spin the comment in the opposite direction and call it a compliment coming from such an esteemed inventor.

After all, we’re only barely eight months into this revolution. Plus, we’ve yet to learn about Google’s answer to Siri.

“I’m really disappointed, but it’s still a market for the future”, the Woz quipped, observing:

I think voice recognition for all the platforms is going to get better and better and better at putting together complete sentences and phrases.

What did a human really mean? Like, if you said ‘Five, I mean six.’ It will understand a backup, the little faults in our speech that humans understand. It will understand that eventually.

Be that as it may, Siri by no mean is a marketing gimick, despite Apple’s over the top ads. There’s a lot of very real potential here and she’s only going to improve over time.

As you know, Siri pulls many facts from the Wolfram Alpha database. Wolfram Alpha is a brilliant search engine and knowledge base which, for example, helps Siri tell you if a plane is flying above your head by sourcing real-time flight data from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The famous geek is no stranger to dissing Siri. Wozniak described back in January how he had a lower success rate with Siri than he did with “the voice built into the Android”.

Here the quote:

I’ll be saying, over and over again in my car, “Call the Lark Creek Steak House,” and I can’t get it done. Then I pick up my Android, say the same thing, and it’s done. On the 4S I can only do that when Siri can connect over the internet.

But many times it can’t connect. I’ve never had Android come back and say, ‘I can’t connect over the internet. Plus I get navigation. Android is way ahead on that.

Well, I guess Apple’s new Maps in iOS 6 with turn-by-turn navigation, spoken directions and Siri integration will appeal to Wozniak.

Here’s a video snippet of The Times Union interview with the Woz.

Unfortunately, Siri still requires network connectivity and that’s unlikely to change because voice recognition, resolving queries and artificial intelligence all run on Apple’s servers.

Also, and this is speaking from my personal experience with iOS 6 Beta, Siri now seems way faster and more accurate, plus it finally runs location searches abroad.


As noted in Jeff’s video demonstration, other notable Siri enhancements in iOS 6 include the ability to launch apps, update social statuses on Twitter and Facebook, make restaurant reservations, as well as search for movies, check out sports scores and player stats.

She’s also learned to speak Chinese, Korean, Italian and other languages and, as a bonus, plays nicely with the iPad 3.

Is Woz being too hard on Siri?