When the predictions were running wild about the new iPad’s features, most pundits believed that the new device would come with Siri. After all, the intelligent assistant has been on the iPhone 4S since October 2011, providing both useful information and help as well as hours of entertainment. Time Magazine’s Matt Peckham believes that Apple left Siri off of the new iPad for one very good reason — Siri isn’t ready for it.
Peckham brings up one point that I made before the announcement of the new iPad; does the iPad really need Siri? After all, the iPad is not a device that you have with you all of the time, and you’re most likely not going to whip it out to ask questions like “Where’s a good Thai restaurant near here?” Instead, with an iPad you’ll be most likely checking email, visiting websites, or reading an ebook — not exactly something you’d need Siri’s help for.
In his post, Peckham hopes that Apple is “working on something more sophisticated for the iPad in terms of natural language interchange.” As he mentions, “what we need is a truly semantic application, capable of understanding long-form sentences, that can ‘get to know’ us over time and adjust to our personality [sic] inflections or eccentricities.”
Sam Biddle at Gizmodo followed up on this stream of consciousness, noting that a Siri-enabled iPad “could genuinely think with us … Imagine starting a term 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.” In other words, Siri for the iPad would be the equivalent of the assistant in the seminal Apple Knowledge Navigator video of 1987.
There’s a long way to go before the current beta version of Siri would be capable of performing tasks of this sort. At least we’re seeing the early fruits of Apple’s labors on the iPhone 4S, and the new iPad will make life somewhat easier (for writers, at least) through its voice dictation feature. As for the Knowledge Navigator capabilities? It’s still a bit early, but I’m hopeful that they’re going to be here soon.