Techie Talk (Siri is a Killer App)

Understanding the capabilities (and limitations) of Siri may only be necessary until Apple makes Siri a real instead of a Beta. Others will quickly follow. Siri is a “Killer App” – one that breaks out of the norm to set a new direction.

As an example, If I ask Siri, “Play Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” she quickly play Toccata.

If I ask, “Play Bach” she always plays my Bach play list from the very beginning right through to the end. (Siri does not yet “shuffle” or “skip” on demand.)  If I say, “Play Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” she play that and stops. If I identify an album, or a multi-album song, say Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, she will continue through the album.

If I say “play music” she actually shuffles – Mussorgsky’s Night on Bare Mountain, followed by Vince Guaraldi’s  “Snoopy.”

In between, there may be a, “Alan, I didn’t understand.”

It is therefore wise to rearrange your playlists to fit more closely your listening habits rather than strictly relying on Siri to figure it all out. Not just a playlist of Bach, but also a playlist of Classical Piano that includes just those subsets of Bach that are (sort of) piano based (like a Well Tempered), but also Horowitz’s Last Concert, etc.

Not just a Smooth Jazz playlist, but a separate breakdown of those artists, Fourplay, Acoustic Alchemy, George Shearing, Down to the Bone, etc.

Then a few mixed playlists that are mood specific: Party music, Office Mix, Sleeping music.

Right now, you can’t leave it all up to Siri – but Siri certainly saves a lot of tapping through music and is virtually hands free for driving or (relatively) unobtrusive listening when the company gets boring! You can zone out to Miles Davis or Grover Washington, while pretending to your boring tablemate that you must keep the earplug in your ear to listen for business calls.

Sometimes Siri will do something, then the next time tell me she can’t. If I ask, “What is the distance from San Francisco to Tokyo using the Great Circle Route, Siri say, “I’m sorry, Alan, I can only measure from your current position.” Now I know Siri uses Wolfram Alpha as a search engine, and am reasonably certain Wolfram has that answer down to the tenths of a nautical mile.

Siri also uses Yelp, so there is a decent assortment of restaurant listing, and since Siri knows where you are she can recommend by food type and distance.

After 45 years in computers, I don’t impress easily.

I am impressed – not with Siri (yet) but with the breakthrough. The next few months will be exciting.

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