What's wrong with the iPhone 4s, and why Jobs is not my hero
Friday, 07 October 11
The iPhone 4s is out, and apparently for the first time it disappointed many of the most addicted Apple fan boys, especially the ones that Apple grown in the latest decade in a sort of semi religious way, using bold statements like this changes everything, again.
Apparently for many, the 4s did not changed everything enough: they probably expected some kind of tangible change like a bigger display, a redesign, or who knows... maybe a portable holodeck.
If you ask me, the iPhone 4s is a huge step forward, because of Siri.
I'm not talking about what Siri is currently able to do, or the current impact it can have in our interaction with a portable device. Even if it seems like a great new way for interacting with computers already, what makes me so excited is the fact that natural language processing finally hit a mass market product. What I hope is that the experience will be already better enough for average people that this will boost innovation in that area, both in the industry and in the academia.
I'm pretty sure Google will end involved in that game. After all till yesterday Android was the state of art in voice interaction. But apparently Google is not able to connect the dots: they solve a given problem in a great way, that is, translating speech to text, but they can't translate that into great user experience for their users.
Now that Apple, again, showed the world the obvious, other companies will compete in the same arena, improving the technology.
In my opinion Siri will be integrated in the iPad soon as well, since the iPad needs Siri even more than the iPhone itself. With tablets you have a bigger screen that makes you feel like you can use it to accomplish actual work, but the limitation of typing in a virtual keyboard, in a non natural position, severely limit what you can do. If you can use your voice it is a different story.
So if it is so cool what is wrong with the iPhone 4s? First: that Apple sells you new software implicitly pretending it is selling you new hardware. Siri is the most interesting thing in the iPhone 4s and could run perfectly well in the iPhone 4 (it is mostly a server-side thing), but even if you purchased an iPhone 4 a few weeks ago, no way, you can't have it, even if you would pay for a software update.
No wait. It is worse than that. Siri was even available in the App Store as a standard application, but was now removed since it got integrated into the 4s.
You may complain that Siri as application sucked, without integration there is no fun. Unfortunately the lack of integration is a result of a closed environment, the iOS environment, where there is a single entity dictating what you can run and what not, and how an application can interact with the device (usually in a very limited form).
All this is happening at the same time as the world lost Steve Jobs. News sites are full of articles showing how great he was, and I think he actually contributed a lot to the technology world. But my heroes are different: they want a world where everybody has access to the best technology, to the best hospitals, and making money is a side effect of contributing in a non evil way to the development of our culture.
Being among the creators of the marketing and business philosophy that Apple pushes forward made Steve Jobs a great CEO, but the world needs different kind of heroes. Unfortunately when they happen to die you can expect some small news in major media, at max.