Former employees say Apple leadership on Siri is failed

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Days after an executive at the former company that created Siri told of his disappointment at the lack of clarity and progress Apple has made on the artificial intelligence service, The Information has an exposé on where the roadblocks are within Infinite Loop.

Several former employees have told the publication that Apple was in a rush to put its 2010 acquisition of Siri into use. Further complicating things was the incubation of what would come to be the early-stage laughing stock known as Apple Maps.

Siri development was first coordinated by Scott Forstall, the iOS lead at the time, who then passed oversight onto Apple Maps project manager Richard Williamson. Team members say that Williamson made unpopular decisions such as setting out major updates to Siri only once a year. Williamson wrote The Information in response to those claims that “Siri was a disaster” on debut, laying blame with SRI on major bugs and performance issues.

The iPhone 4S launch in 2011 — the ‘S’ stood for “Siri” — never ended up being the debacle that led to the firings of Forstall and Williamson. Apple Maps was and it happened the following year.

Other laments the employees were Siri’s lack of third-party development and the Siri team’s lack of awareness of a HomePod project dating back to 2015. It was those factors that Apple didn’t have at the time that allowed Amazon to run up a lead with Alexa and its series of Echo speakers. Google and Google Home shortly followed. Meanwhile, SiriKit launched in 2016 to very little notice and the HomePod only started shipping out to meager demand in February.

Apple responded to the claims in a statement:

We have made significant advances in Siri performance, scalability and reliability and have applied the latest machine learning techniques to create a more natural voice and more proactive features.

[…]

We continue to invest deeply in machine learning and artificial intelligence to continually improve the quality of answers Siri provides and the breadth of questions Siri can respond to.

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.