Artificial Intelligence. Or just a wanna-be service. It doesn’t matter really, Siri and Voice Actions are running the show today when it comes to “intelligent” assistants. But Siri is bound to be left behind, eventually.
Of course I had the suspicion for a while now, but after checking out the WWDC keynote today, it becomes clear to me that Apple does not aggregate the Internet to present information in a tight manner, but it rather bonds deals with big web sites. Then, they have to provide Apple with an API that provides access to specific data, and present that information in a beautiful UI.
As cool as this looks, it doesn’t scale. Sure, for year 2012 it might be good-enough (since we’re coming from an era that had nothing like that before), but by year 2020 this would be the wrong way to do AI. Apple can not possibly hard-code support for this decades’ 500 new major web sites. It’s too much work, error-prone, and “500″ is still a small number of the web sites that people would be interested in. Apple will hit a wall with this type of engineering.
Even the opposite doesn’t work (every web site adding API hooks specifically for Siri, on a special URL with an API key). Do you remember, Mac OS’ Sherlock (and its third party equivalent “Watson”)? Old Mac OS users should remember this app! This would be the same thing! But also remember how often these APIs were broken on the various plugins consisting these apps, eventually leading to their demise. They didn’t scale because people running the various sites didn’t care to keep compatibility!
The only way to go forward with an AI that scales, is for the AI itself to aggregate the internet by hooking itself into a search engine in a more specialized way, find the right info, and present it to you. And because Google already owns and operates a “smart” search engine, is in the unique position to prove a much more useful service later on. Sure, it looks bad now UI-wise, and it’s way less attractive or interesting (it doesn’t make me wanna use Voice Actions), but it’s got more potential than Siri in the long run.
If any of the two reach the Singularity, it would be Google’s solution. I called it. Unless Apple acquires a bunch of startups, plus acquiring or licensing Bing. Then it can get interesting.