How Siri differs, Is Beta better ?

With Siri , Apple has chosen a different path to providing IOS users with a powerful service. Siri differs from other competitors attempts to provide similar looking services but there exists a real difference. 

When a Beta is really a Beta

Apple should not be judged too harshly for releasing Siri as a beta (an unfinished software product). When Apple introduced Siri with the new iPhone 4s. They explained their reason for releasing a Beta (something Apple rarely does) was that they required our user-generated research to improve the service. This is also the reason Siri was not introduced on all of Apple’s products capable of running it. As time goes by Siri will get better and better. So this beta is truly a Beta. A term that some other companies use as excuse for releasing junk software to get the users help in identify bugs.

Apple does the heavy lifting for us

It is important to remember that unlike its competitors who typically use a search algorithm with hit or miss performance ala Google or Bing to return data to its voice recognition software which then must sort thru it. Apple has determined that this process is far too confusing for a quality Voice Recognition services. Although these services are getting better in browsers search, they still require us read and to actively triage thru many unrelated topics and choose the answer most closely related to our query not to mention the interference of favored results. Instead Apple thru the Siri project has chosen a different approach, which transfers the work load to Apple’s shoulders,  it is labor demanding, time-consuming and an expensive process on Apples part.

Basically, by utilizing user research data Apple is able to improve Siri’s results and correct subtle things like diction and speech patterns. Apple learns what topics are most important to us and begins by concentrating on those topics. Apple takes on the task of painstakingly teaching Siri that information, topic by topic or selectively pointing Siri to the correct database. This service  requires an ongoing commitment from Apple, who have created a whole new division for this research, continually teaching Siri new topics, fixing bugs and tweaking Siri to get better and better.

At launch they began by introduced buzz worthy items like reminders, weather, calendar info then began moving on to topics like Sports, Dining, Mapping and so on.

Apple also benefits

Apple gains two benefits, first, a more focused search providing better returns that can be refined over time to improve exponentially, second, it provides Apple with a very useful database of fully indexed info available to use for other applications or for sale to third parties for their applications. It does not hurt that this also takes aim at Google’s core business as well.

Updated 11/15/2012

Read a more technical explanation from Kontra here