Posted 2 years ago

My Thoughts on a Siri API

Siri API’s

They didn’t announce them at WWDC, which makes sense to me. But there were a lot of rumors surrounding this feature. It sounds great but it’s just a feature. Not a benefit. I’ll explain why.

First of all, why is Siri so popular (at least relatively to all other voice controls)? It has a personality, speaks clearly, and can do many basic tasks. Apple has increased the capabilities of Siri. You can launch apps, find movies, book a dinner reservation, and check the latest sports scores and stats. They will definitely add more functionality to Siri as time goes by. But the question on many people’s mind is “Will Apple let developer’s add functionality to Siri.”

My first question to you would be, “Can Apple add those features themselves?”. With their OS, they keep adding Top 10 features until the only things not covered are insignificant. They can do the same to Siri. Siri is still young; in a few years, we may see a fully grown up Siri who can pick up your groceries for you when you forget to.

But Apple can’t possibly do everything, right? Well, I suppose. They can get developers to do it for them. Does that mean a Siri API? Yes and no. I think it won’t be a Siri API in the traditional way. What I mean by that is an API where you can say something like, “tell this app to do this”. I’m thinking it will be more like the integration from Yelp, Rotten Tomatoes, and Wolfram Alpha.

With Yelp & Rotten Tomatoes, Apple pulls data from them and it displays it to the user. Siri understands the question and knows HOW to answer it. All she has to do is find a source of knowledge, be it Wolfram or Yelp or others. I think the “Siri API” will be app developers registering their app to be compatible with Siri.

How would they do this? In iOS 6, saying, “take a picture” will give you a list of camera apps to choose from. (Right now, Instagram isn’t an available option, probably due to how it’s labeled in the App Store or the labels within the app). Apps can also register as a routing app. This doesn’t just mean the app is labels as an app that gives routing directions. It also means that the native Maps application can use the app to provide routing directions from within. This was briefly mentioned in the WWDC Keynote.

So I ask again, how would app developers integrate into Siri? Well, by registering the app as able to answer specific questions. For example, an app could register as sports and provide additional information to Siri (Siri doesn’t know Canadian sports right now). I’ve already mentioned routing apps, but what about shopping apps? You could one day ask Siri to reserve the latest iPhone right from your soon-to-be-last-year’s-model iPhone.

If this sounds no different to you than a “traditional” Siri API, then let me explain some more. Imagine if every developer could add functionality to Siri and every time you installed an app, Siri could do more things. Sounds great, right? Democracy and all. But really, do you want that? After 100 apps installed, you would have 100 commands you will never remember. the list will keep growing and sometimes there will be a lot of duplicates. It’ll be chaotic. Not to mention the inconsistencies in personality from developers literally putting words in Siri’s mouth.

Now, imagine if Siri had a set number of features that steadily grew over the years. You recognize Siri and know how to interact with her because she is more or less the same virtual assistant you knew when you first talked to her in 2011. But when you want to get mapping directions, you can use TomTom or MapQuest; if you want to make a phone call, Siri can ask if you want it to be over Skype, other VoIP apps, or the native phone app. Want to buy tickets to your local theatre? If they have an app, you can buy it right from Siri.

To wrap this whole thing up, I believe Apple will integrate other apps and services to Siri, either natively or through API’s. But, as usually, they will do it in such a way that will preserve Siri’s personality and keep her from growing too complex. iOS 7 could be when we see this. Not all at once, of course. But slowly. Each and every single app in Apple could one day integrate another developer’s app. And that app could be yours.

Posted 2 years ago

Funny Post of the Day

Google voiced in their concerns today regarding the limitations placed on browsers for Windows RT, which is the ARM version of Windows 8.  They said

We share the concerns Mozilla has raised regarding the Windows 8 environment restricting user choice and innovation. We’ve always welcomed innovation in the browser space across all platforms and strongly believe that having great competitors makes us all work harder. In the end, consumers and developers benefit the most from robust competition.

Which is hilarious because, as John Gruber jokingly puts it,

Microsoft is free to ship a fully-functional version of IE for Chrome OS, right?

I think the only wrongdoing of Microsoft is that they had the whole antirust case brought against them with IE and Windows.  Apple can do it because they never were a threat and weren’t anticompetitive.  Now it’s really biting Microsoft in the ass.

Posted 2 years ago

Samsung Galaxy S 3 (Link: Engadget Review)

Here’s the new Samsung Galaxy S 3.  It’s looking to be better than its predecessor, but not by a whole lot.  Instead of a 4.3” display, it’s 4.8”.

The main stand out features are:

  • S Voice
  • S Beam
  • Pop Up Play

I’ll go in reverse order.

Pop Up Play is a feature that allows you to continually view videos on the massive display while working on other apps.  With a press of a button, the video becomes smaller and you can drag it around the screen.  I think it’s a bit of a novelty feature.  If I were to watch a video and enjoy it, I wouldn’t want distractions.  And if I wanted to use another app, I don’t want distractions there either.  The “second screen” phenomena - using an electronic device while watching videos - might be the cause for this feature.  Personally, the constant dragging around the screen seems more of a hassle than it’s worth.

The S Beam is really cool.  Take two Samsung Galaxy S 3’s together back-to-back and the photo/video/song is transferred immediately.  The only catch is you need another Samsung Galaxy S 3.  From what I’ve learned, Galaxy Nexus is not compatible (despite being made my Samsung).  But I could be wrong.  Either way, pretty cool.  It’s sort of like Bump, which is compatible with both iOS and Android.

Last, but certainly not the least, is S Voice.  Yes, S Voice where the ‘S’ stands for Samsung, I guess.  It comes with 8 languages, 2 more than Siri.  It can do everything Siri can do and more.  It can launch apps and take pictures.  It even tries to be humorous.

There are also a whole assortment of oddball features.  I saw this one feature which I thought was poorly designed.  It’s a gesture to access the camera right from the phone.  You’d think that Samsung would differentiate themselves from Apple by placing a dedicated camera button.  Instead, to access the camera through this feature, you tap and hold and then turn your phone 90 degrees.  I think dragging from the bottom of the screen upwards is a lot easier…

Well, there you have it.  Initial impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S 3.  I think it’s more of a soft upgrade from the Samsung Galaxy S 2 but still worth buying if you don’t already own a Samsung Galaxy S 2.

Posted 2 years ago

MG Siegler Talks About Apple With Sarah Lane

Some interesting conversations.

I took away with the iOS 6 wanted features. I have a few ideas that I strung in with theirs:
1) app communication. Like that your app can send tweets right from the app? Imagine doing that with any other services (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.)
2) Siri on iPad
3) Launching apps with Siri
4) making the ‘x’ bigger in Notification Centre. Also, add a ‘clear all’
5) Paid Updates. My idea is to keep the current system of two apps but provide a way for one app to upgrade the newer app. That way, old, legacy apps can still be maintained while providing a convenient way to upgrade.
6) Simplify Notification Settings. Hate that long list of settings in Notifications? I do, too. There was an Apple patent filed several years ago that showed a way to access app settings right from the app icon itself (in the home screen). That way, not only can you access the notification settings, you can also access the app settings. This could save a lot of time traveling to the Settings app (although it’ll still be there)

But besides those few ideas, nobody has any rumors gets and WWDC is inching closer. We’ll see in the days to come.

Posted 2 years ago

Internal Testing

Tim Cook:

So our view is that the tablet market is huge.  And you know, we’ve said that since day one.  We didn’t wait until we had a lot of results.  We were using them here and it was already clear to us that there was so much you could do and that the reasons that people would use them would be so broad.

They knew it because they used it.  I’ve said this a lot before, but if you actually use the products you test/make, you would know if it’ll be a hit or not.  Looking at the Transformer Prime - which was supposed to be the Android tablet poster child - we can see a mess of a product.  Rushed, filled with bugs, and needs a GPS dongle that prevents the user from using the keyboard simultaneously (this, of course, is their key selling point).

If companies took time to use their products, then they could know how to fix it and make it better.  It’s evident that most companies simply don’t do that.  They look at specs and features, not benefits.  And they ask the engineers to design it based on criteria.  When the product is ready to be released, they say a few things about how great it is but neither own one nor even used one.  They just keep reiterating how great the product is.

(Source: Yahoo!)

Posted 2 years ago

Karl Denninger again making inaccurate preditions

I’ve heard a bit of this guy.  Said RIM will beat Apple or something…

Now he’s wondering how Apple could possibly sell 35 million iPhones if AT&T & Verizon only sold 7.4 million.  It’s as if there’s a world outside the US there that is selling 27.6 million.  To him, that’s impossible.

Right from the page:

Where did the other 27.6 million sales come from?

It’s called subtraction folks…..

It’s actually called narrow-mindedness.  There IS a world outside the USA, Karl.

Posted 2 years ago

"Microsoft Is The Best!" — Unnamed Microsoft Employee


Earlier today, I wrote an anti-Microsoft post. Actually, it wasn’t so anti-Microsoft, I thought I was decidedly fair. My thesis was basically that Microsoft was done in the consumer space, but that they’d continue to do well as an enterprise company going forward. 

Essentially, they’d follow the IBM path. Nothing wrong with that. IBM is still a great company, they’re just different from what they once were.

For some reason though, all anyone cares about is the consumer space. And, let’s be honest, Apple now owns it. If it’s not clear to you now, it will be in a year. Or two years max. It’s just the way it is. 

In five years, Microsoft will be known as an enterprise company. That’s not controversial in my book, it’s just an observation on where things are headed.


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There will always be haters, MG.

But I agree with you. Microsoft is no longer a consumer company. Actually, they never really were. They started off with a focus on work environments which bled into the consumer space simply because there were no formidable competitors.

Finally, there is a company who focuses on the consumer market first. This company happens to be Apple. Back when people didn’t care about ease-of-use but only productivity, Apple kept focusing on making the best products that we would integrate into our daily lives. Ironically, often times ease-of-use translates to productivity. This is especially true in mobile. Why is Apple doing so well in the mobile enterprise market? Ease-of-use.

I, like MG, am betting that Microsoft will no longer have a significant presence in the consumer market, especially in the consumer mindset.

Although 5 years? I’d give it a bit less. If we add all smart devices (smartphones, tablets, and computers), Microsoft is already falling well behind even just the iPhone business, let alone others. 3 years is all it’ll take.

Posted 2 years ago

Print in the digital world

This excerpt caught my attention:
Of noted interested is when Crovitz relates how he met with Apple’s Eddy Cue to discuss the terms of revenue sharing for published works. Expecting a better deal than the 30% take Apple generates from apps Crovitz was a bit surprised when Cue told him, “‘I don’t think you understand. We can’t treat newspapers or magazines any differently than we treat FarmVille.” As Crovitz states: “It was a sobering reminder that traditional media brands have no preferred place in the new digital world.”
It’s true. All media is the same in the digital world. The margins are healthier and the lines are blending between what is a book and what is a game and what is a movie, etc.
Posted 2 years ago
Sometimes when I see these interesting ideas, I have to wonder if they moved away to a cave to dream up ideas.  Like this, a business card device that transfers business cards to other people with the same device.  It saves paper.
Just like with the iPhone and apps like Bump.  Where have they been in the last few years?
Posted 2 years ago

Cool Designs for a cutting board.

I’d like to see this product in stores.