Thank God Siri Isn't on the New iPad

By Sam Biddle on at

Somehow, through the smog of doubt and tech cynicism, the new iPad managed not to disappoint—likely owing to a retina display that's more glorious than Athena's cleavage. But! No Siri! Apple you screwed us again! Actually, no: be glad it's missing.

Siri on the iPad is an inevitability, just like Siri on pretty much everything Apple will ever sell is an inevitability. It'll control our music, turn on the World Series, and, of course, find the nearest abortion clinic. It's integral to Apple's far-seeing vision of the computer.

So why, if Siri is ready for iPhone 4S primetime, is it absent from the greatest iPad of all time? It's the fastest mobile device Apple's ever made, so processing power can't be the scapegoat. And it's got the most liquid crystalline eye capacity of any mobile device Apple's ever made; just think of all the voice-automated ways we could boss Siri around. What gives?

Time's Matt Peckham has some spot-on speculation: Siri just isn't good enough for the iPad. Why? Because the iPad is a whole other computing beast that fits into an entirely different part of our life compared to the always-pocketed phone:

With an iPad, by contrast, you might be sitting down at work or home to check email, your social networking sites, or browse the web. Or you might be a kid settling in for a marathon info-dive, the way one might with a book or a game or an encyclopedia. The requirements of a voice recognition app in these "settled" scenarios are much different than when you're out and about.

He's right. If we're going to use Siri on the iPhone, it'll be for quick conveniences: Where's the closest X, play album Y, text wife Z. Things we can't be bothered to do with our fingers. Sloth.

A Siri-enabled iPad, by contrast, could genuinely think with us. It could provide the equivalent of extra arms and an extra brain using an extra computer, working in parallel and assisting us, the way Apple dreamt over two decades ago. Imagine starting a uni paper while Siri looks up a list of Latin American countries that underwent a revolution in the 20th century, sorted by current GDP? Imagine asking Siri to pluck out every photo of your parents at your brother's wedding, auto-enhance, and resize to something proper for email, all in one utterance.

Siri in its current form is so astoundingly far from being able to do any of this—it can't even understand Mat Honan's request for some Coltrane—that an iPad version would be self-parody on Apple's part. Even in its current iteration, Siri is a beta product at best, a broken gimmick at worst:

That speech recognition is the most obvious example of that beta. Siri's most common reply to me is that "it didn't quite get that." Is this due to my (very slight!) southern accent? Is it because I mumble? I don't know, but I do know that my Nexus rarely failed to understand me in the ways Siri does.

Worse than its failure to understand my words is its failure to understand my meaning. Siri is often quite dumb. Sure, it will do what you tell it. But it doesn't interpret or do nuance, even though that is exactly what Apple promises

Siri blows the basics on a phone. Any attempt to cram it into your iPad, ostensibly the gleaming monolith of the post-PC era, would be disastrous. The means to interpret the kind of highly sophisticated tasks we do on computers, not phones, just isn't there. By a lightyear. So for now, don't consider this a missing feature. Consider it a missing failure. [Time]

Photo: Kharidehal Abhirama Ashwin/Shutterstock