A question for Siri?

How is Siri being welcomed around the globe?

Apple’s virtual personal assistant is a much-hyped feature of the iPhone 4S. Still in beta stage, many column inches have been devoted to Siri’s ability to integrate different apps via voice assisted commands like making appointments in a diary and sending a message to attendees, planning travel routes or browsing Safari. The ability of the app to understand context which has allowed users to ask different questions about life, love and have some fun has made many think the app is a real jump forward in terms of voice activated and recognition software.

apple_iphone_4sA question for Siri? 3

Yet Siri’s ability to understand all users has been limited and has led to some negative reviews. Siri can identify British, American and Australian accents, as well as French and German. Yet it has struggled to identify regional accents. Latino speakers and Scottish speakers have said that Siri has found it hard to understand their accents.

A similar issue has developed in the latest country where the iPhone 4S has launched. As the handset launched in India, there was much excitement and enthusiasm, the same that has followed the device around the globe. Despite the price tag in India – the 16GB model is Rs 44,500 – there were cheers and whoops as actor Nidhi Subbaiah launched the smartphone at midnight. The difficulty there might be in using the key feature of the phone does not appear to have put off users. While English is spoken in India, it is often done so with an accent that many suspect Siri will not understand.

While Indian consumers may be willing to put Siri’s limitations to one side, one of Apple’s competitors is not prepared to take the global adulation of the beta app lying down. Microsoft has challenged Apple’s belief that Siri is one of a kind claiming that Windows Phone 7 had capabilities similar to Siri for over a year. One of Microsoft’s’ top bosses, Craig Mundie stated that the only reason Apple made such a fuss of Siri at the launch of the iPhone 4S is that there was no other major update on the device. After Mundie’s interview with Forbes users have compared Siri with WP7’s TellMe. Voice recognition software TellMe was deeply interwoven into the applications of Windows Phone 7 making it easier to make a call or locate a business. As well as using the software on the smartphone, Microsoft has since rolled it out to Kinect and plan to integrate to TVs.

Microsoft initially cited Apple’s superior marketing for the success of Siri and its recognition, perhaps at TellMe’s expense. Yet the comparison is indicative of the difference in fortunes between Apple devices and Windows Phone. While the former has become one of the most famous and popular in the smartphone market, Windows Phone has struggled to keep up with its competitors. Siri remains in beta stage, a fact Apple are keen to emphasise. While it may be limited in language recognition, its ability at voice recognition has, on the whole, been the first step in a game changer for how people interact with smartphones. Where once using a touch screen looked like the future, now so does using your voice.

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