I know a thing or two about Virtual Assistants. Virtual VIP helps our clients get stuff done. I’ll stop short of saying “whatever you need done, we do for you”, but it’s close.

Apple’s Siri, despite what you might have seen on television commercials, is not a Virtual Assistant. In fact, forget what Samuel L. Jackson and Zoey Deschanel have to say on the subject, most people will find that interactions with Siri go more like this one (NSFW):

The Siri Rock God Commercial, Reimagined


This isn’t news. Pretty much right after Siri became available, problems started cropping up, including, for example, a claim that Siri was censoring results. This isn’t actually true, by the way; Siri relies on outside sources to gather information, so at least in part it’s the completeness and accuracy of those sources that determine the results Siri gives you.

Forget also the debate about Siri being a bandwidth hog, and questions about Apple’s honesty over whether Siri can run on anything other than the iPhone 4S. We get it: whether or not Siri works as advertised, or whether Siri works as well as she’s portrayed to in Apple’s unceasing flogging is just a marketing position.

Of course, not everyone is willing to forgive all of that; the lawsuits have started.

Some information about the way people use Siri in the real world—or don’t—is starting to come in. And while you can interpret the numbers in many ways, it’s clear that not all that many people are actually relying on Siri to play virtual assistant.

Anecdotally, I can tell you that my iPhone 4S-toting family members gave up on Siri after playing with her for about an hour . . . and never went back. Siri, like the iPad, is just a toy. But whether you throw platitudes, pro or con, or observe from a more dispassionate position, the short of this is that Siri doesn’t really work, because so far Artificial Intelligence isn’t reliable.

Using technology before it’s fully developed and has evolved through a few versions is often a recipe for doing a lot of work and coming out unhappy. Marketing like that which Apple does for Siri encourages you to forget that.

Good news if you’re the marketer. But bad news if you’re the person finding out just how hard computers can be to make real use out of.

Wanna talk? Me too.

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