How Disappointing: Google’s Andy Rubin Dismisses Siri

By  |  Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I’m having trouble wrapping my head around Andy Rubin’s dismissal of Siri, the virtual assistant built into Apple’s iPhone 4S. Here’s what Rubin, Google’s senior vice president of mobile, told Ina Fried during the Asia D conference in Hong Kong:

“I don’t believe that your phone should be an assistant,” he said. “Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone.”

A few thoughts:

  • The smartphone is a descendant of the PDA, which stands for Personal Digital Assistant. So there’s that.
  • Android already has voice commands in it (“listen to,” “navigate to” and so on). The essential difference is that Android’s voice commands are harder to access because you have to memorize the syntax.
  • Siri’s main purpose is to make certain tasks easier by letting people talk and listen instead of look and type. That’s it. By thinking of Siri in terms of who is communicating with whom, Rubin is missing the point of why the technology is important.

I understand that tech companies aren’t supposed to praise the competition. No one expects Rubin to go ga-ga over Siri. But when the guy who oversees Android, the world’s biggest smartphone platform, blows off the idea of natural voice interaction with a computer, it’s flabbergasting. And disappointing.

I mean, seriously, Andy. Please grasp the importance of an almost-AI in your pocket. Tell me you’re doing that thing Steve Jobs did where he would pretend to dismiss something, but was actually subtly suggesting how Apple’s implementation would be even better. Because I’d hate to think that the higher-ups at Google took one look at Siri and decided that they weren’t interested in the concept.

 
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28 Comments For This Post

  1. Shane Brady Says:

    It's not flabbergasting, jeesh.. Why do writers have to be so dramatic? He's obviously doing the Jobs thing.

  2. Ed Oswald Says:

    No it is. Because its a dumb statement, in my opinion.

  3. shawn Says:

    I find the drama levels to be delightfully low here at technologizer. I do, however, find the 'connect with facebook' options to be disgustingly non-working. (mac, latest firefox) am I missing something?

  4. Alex V Says:

    Don't you remember when Steve Jobs dissed tablets?

  5. jeremy Says:

    It's just another sign of how team Android doesn't look at the "natural" ways for users to do things…

  6. Feynman Says:

    This is an EXTREMELY biased article. A waste of time to read.

  7. Info Dave Says:

    "Siri’s main purpose is to make certain tasks easier by letting people talk and listen instead of look and type"

    Is this your original thought? This is the best sound bite yet as to what Siri is. Siri lets people talk and listen rather than look and type. Forget natural language processing, AI, context, semantics, and the like. Siri lets people talk and listen rather than look and type. How simple. How Apple like.

    Siri lets people talk and listen rather than look and type. I want partial credit because I reduced the number of words. But Jared deserves credit for getting to the essence of Siri.

  8. Jared Newman Says:

    I'll only agree if you can tell me the difference between bias and opinion. But in the meantime, allow me to rewrite the story in a way that's more suitable to you.

    —–

    Andy Rubin said the following about Siri:

    “I don’t believe that your phone should be an assistant,” he said. “Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone.”

    The end.

  9. Jared Newman Says:

    I'd love to help. What are you trying to do, exactly?

  10. Ron Says:

    Steve never dissed tablets. He dissed tablet PCs. Anyone that's ever used a windows tablet knows what he was talking about.

  11. Ron Says:

    Anyone that has used a Bluetooth speakerphone or a Bluetooth headset to tell Siri to "wake me up at 6am on Tuesday" has seen the future described in sci if movies like Star Trek and 2001.

    Until companies like Google and Microsoft get it, Apple will continue to lead the way.

  12. AlfieJr Says:

    Rubin knows very well Apple has leaped ahead of them. but of course he can't admit it in public. MS is putting out the same party line too.

    the real question is how fast they can catch up – or not? and also how fast Apple pushes Siri ahead to the "next level" before they do.

  13. The_Heraclitus Says:

    You shouldn't communicate with your phone? What a moronic statement.

  14. gargravarr Says:

    Google must have a big supply of those new, super-sour grapes. Enjoy, them, Mr. Rubin

  15. MJPollard Says:

    Until Siri can respond in Majel Barrett-Roddenberry’s voice, I will refuse to be impressed. And seeing how she died in 2008, it’s going to be a long wait. :-)

  16. JohnFen Says:

    Poor Andy Rubin. I’m sure he’s a very smart guy, so the sheer idiocy of that statement must have cause him a great deal of pain as it emerged from his mouth.

    And I’m an Android, not iPhone, user.

  17. JohnFen Says:

    @Ron: Huh? I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. What’s the difference between a tablet and a tablet PC?

  18. The_Heraclitus Says:

    No. But I DO remember when he dissed "Apps".

  19. The_Heraclitus Says:

    The difference is that Jobs after "stealing" MS's idea, wanted to obfuscate…

  20. The_Heraclitus Says:

    I guess not being in Tech, you haven't seen Iris…

    LOL!

  21. Phillip Says:

    So we all get bent out of shape because of smoke and mirror statements? Jobs and everyone else uses misdirection when talking about their competitors. I think we can all agree that ANY edge is important in business and in sales the more edges you have the more lasting the cuts to your competition. Siri is major and Apple has done their homework on this one. Even if you think it's not something you would use millions of others will and that makes it big by anyone’s standards.

    I love my iOS devices and my Android devices. Android had speach recognition 1st maybe (not sure) but Apple with SIRI on the iPhone 4s just leapfrogged Android in this area. If it makes anyone want to speak naturally to their device and have it work well people will use it. Keep it simple, make it function well, make it look good and the prize goes to the folks that remember that we are all influenced by Star Trek communicators and having the ability to talk to our computers and they talk back.

  22. jurgenliastr Says:

    Siri is major and Apple has done their homework on this one. Even if you think it's not something you would use millions of others will and that makes it big by anyone’s standards.
    Headway University

  23. jack Says:

    It's not flabbergasting, jeesh.. Why do writers have to be so dramatic? He's obviously doing the Jobs thing. car accident lawyer

  24. zahidpro Says:

    Both iOS and Android are large enough to attract loads of attention from malware writers, it's just that (at the moment) that Android market is making it the easy target. bed bath and beyond printable coupons

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    I would like to join your blog anyway so please continue sharing with us.

  26. Dried Pear Dices Says:

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  27. Sunflower Seeds Says:

    What the above post is suggesting is that we are creating a cadre of permanently unemployed people who will no doubt never get their former lives back.

  28. Bakery Grade Says:

    I was actually pretty good at it to! Really all I did was just press all the buttons in crazy patterns. That was my usual strategy to win in any fighting game.

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