The Macalope Daily: The honeymoon is over

Siri’s gotten a fair amount of grief in the past week as users have had a chance to kick the virtual tires and found that, to their chagrin, the emperor is wearing no tires.

Mat Honan has a not atypical privileged rant about Siri that boils down to “We expect better from Apple.” And, frankly, this is true.

Come on, Apple. This sense of elitism doesn’t build itself, you know.

Still, the Macalope thinks Honan’s double-dipping.

If I wanted a half-baked voice control system, I could snag an Android phone for $49 at T-Mobile. Instead, I waited, and gladly plunked down hundreds of dollars on a new iPhone in October—because it promised to be flawless (or close enough), like everything before it.

“Promised to be flawless”? Really? It would seem pretty odd if a company promised its beta product would be flawless. That might have raised some eyebrows.

Now, the Macalope can see how your average consumer might think Siri would be flawless after more than a month of iPhone 4S advertising. But if Gizmodo’s Mat Honan thought it would flawless, well, then Gizmodo’s Mat Honan should take a picture of himself in the bathroom mirror with his iPhone 4S and look at it long and hard to find out who’s to blame there.

I’m sorry. Beta? Beta is for Google. When Apple does a public beta, it usually keeps it out of the hands of the, you know, public. It typically makes you go get betas. It doesn’t force them on you, much less advertise them.

Here we’re in complete agreement. The Macalope doesn’t think you can both fault Apple for releasing a beta product and for it not working perfectly. Pick one. And it seems the right one to pick is “releasing a beta product and advertising the hell out of it.”

Yes, yes, the ads say “beta”, but Apple’s clearly positioning it as the biggest reason to get an iPhone 4S and it’s an unarguably unfinished product. Yes, yes, even as it is, it’s pretty amazing, but it’s still not something you can or should try to rely on. Yes, yes, there’s kitsch value in having it, and it’s kind of fun to play with, but that’s not how it’s advertised. It’s advertised as working.

(Ugh, you’re being really argumentative today, imaginary representative of a Macworld reader.)

The Macalope doesn’t have Honan’s degree of problems with getting Siri to understand the words he’s saying, just with getting it to understand the meaning or doing something useful with the meaning. You only have to have it perfectly get the name of a place in your address book, but then fail to be able to give you directions to it to realize it’s still in the “novelty” stage.

Were this Google, or Microsoft, I’d shrug. But it’s not, it’s Apple. And Apple is the company that sells perfection. It’s a company that usually keeps its promises, and in its Siri ads, it promises far more than what it actually delivers. That’s not what any of us signed up for.

The Macalope doesn’t agree with the last sentence—we who talk about technology to the degree that people ask us to please stop bothering their children while they’re trying to watch the funny puppets should have a pretty good idea what a beta is—but the rest is 100 percent spot on.

Still, you have to admit that even as a beta Siri’s a step up from Mobile Me or Ping.

Lol, remember Ping?

No?

Actually, the Macalope doesn’t either. He was kind of hoping you did.

Did it have something to do with TCP/IP?

[Editors’ Note: Each week the Macalope skewers the worst of the week’s coverage of Apple and other technology companies. In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

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