Is Siri a Stinker?

"Sorry, I don't understand."

Too often, that's the response my wife gets from Siri when she asks "her" a question. She's mostly given up trying. And you know what? My wife isn't alone. No less than Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) co-founder Steve Wozniak is unimpressed by the company's soon-to-be omnipresent voice assistant.

"A lot of people say Siri. I say poo-poo," Wozniak said in an interview with the Times Union newspaper in upstate New York.

Really, Woz? Siri is so bad that you've got to reach back to playground days for an apt descriptor? Ouch.

But it gets worse. In the interview, Woz described, in detail, how he used Siri to make reservations, divine the largest prime numbers, and find the largest lakes in California, among other things, before Apple purchased the software in 2010. Each time, Siri would perform flawlessly, Woz said.

And after Apple took over? Woz said Siri would return results that were either unrelated or irrelevant. "I'm really disappointed, but it's still a market for the future," he said.

Woz's comments reflect a different level of frustration than my wife experiences. She's never had success with Siri; Woz did, at one point, but apparently doesn't any longer.

The worry for investors is that Siri is key to Apple's long-term strategy. No longer merely confined to the iPhone, the cheeky voice assistant is moving to the iPad. OpenTable's (Nasdaq: OPEN  ) reservations system, and Time Warner's Rotten Tomatoes movie review aggregator, are also being redesigned to take advantage of Siri. So is Twitter. All signs point to Apple viewing Siri as its next great computing interface, much in the same way that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) changed gaming interfaces with its Kinect hands-free controller.  

Woz's comments suggest that he envisions a similar opportunity -- e.g., it's a "market for the future" -- one that could set iDevices apart in the eyes of consumers who have plenty of options, thanks to good work by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , whose Android operating system is now the world's top choice for new smart devices, and Microsoft, whose Windows Phone is slowly gaining acceptance.

But for Apple to take full advantage of the mobile revolution, Siri is going to have to lose the stink that has Woz turning up his nose.

iTune in
Siri is just one of many potential catalysts that could dictate the Mac maker's future returns. Keep up to date on the entire business by signing up for our new Apple research service today. You'll get all of our senior tech analysts' best Apple analysis right when you need it most.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple, Google, and Time Warner at the time of publication. Check out Tim's Web home, portfolio holdings, and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, OpenTable, Apple, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, OpenTable, and Google and creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (2)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2012, at 4:49 AM, gilsh wrote:

    Siri has problems but it is still probably the leading voice recognition software out there.

    And the great Woz has been so anti-Apple since the death of his co-founder Steve Jobs, that one can only wonder whether the man has a problem regarding Cook's nomination. Definitely not an objective voice about Apple, however you look at Mr. Wozniak.

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2012, at 6:27 AM, applefan1 wrote:

    First off, this software is in Beta and Woz knows this, and I don't know why they are dragging Woz into this. The software is going to be released in the next version of iOS 6 and I don't think Woz is using that version, he's using iOS5 version. So, the point is kind of useless to discuss. Now, if the final version was not any better than yes, but until the final version comes out, this one that is being used is Beta. Now, there are some people that aren't going to use it, even if it did work, some do. I think using it for dictation is one of the better ideas, or launching an app., and for speaking directions for traveling. Bottom line, wait until the finished version comes out, otherwise it's a waste of time discussing.

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2012, at 6:33 AM, applefan1 wrote:

    Woz, was not exactly Mr. Expert. He and Steve came up with a low cost personal computer back in the 70's. Woz, wasn't exactly known to be the top leading computer expert, it was the media that put him in that category. I grew up in the Bay Area during those times. Woz wasn't part of the Mac development team, he wasn't part of NeXT, which is the precursor to OS X, and Woz hasn't worked at Apple for several decades. Woz's other ventures never panned out and he acts like an enthusiastic kid with lots of toys, lots of time on his hands and the media looking up to him because the media is making him out to be the second Steve Jobs. If we had Woz running Apple instead of Jobs, we'd all be using a IIe's or DOS machines.

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2012, at 6:39 AM, applefan1 wrote:

    What the problem with Android is that Steve can afford to buy a new phone when they support the latest version of OS, but I would rather use an updated OS on the phone i originally bought until I can afford a new one. Plus the Android platform is such where each phone mfg has to support and update the OS independently of Google. It seems like Google spits out a new version of a toolset, but there is no direction otherwise. A lot of these features people talk about aren't built INTO the OS, it is third party software. Plus, there is some inconsistency from phone to phone for how to use it and a learning curve associated with it, but the average Joe Blow doesn't know this and they don't find out until AFTER they buy the phone. Android has low customer satisfaction ratings and 85% of them are using an old version of the OS. If a company cannot get their user base on the latest OS on the newest version, it's just going to cause confusion and the App developers might reserve updating their apps because there aren't enough people using the latest version OS.

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2012, at 10:54 AM, TheTechUser101 wrote:

    Im a previous user of Blackberry and Samsung mobile phones. I switched to iphone last year because my contract was done. I couldnt believe how intuitive and very user friendly the IOS, i will never go back to android; never again. but i admit i have stocks from them and apple. I use siri a lot specially when i am driving, i didnt experience any problems with it and it works for me.

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