Jobs Absent As Apple Spawns Skynet

Our Possible FutureThe best one-liner that I heard today came from a tweet by @AshleyEsqueda: “If you’re wondering, ‘Siri’ can be pronounced two ways: ‘Skynet’ and ‘GLaDOS‘”. Ashley was referring to Siri, the new, voice-activated, A.I personal assistant  that ships with the iPhone 4S.

Apple LogoToday, from their Cupertino, California headquarters, Apple gave everyone a preview of the aforementioned iPhone 4S, available October 14th (though you can pre-order starting on the 7th, if you’re into that kind of thing). October 14th is also the date that iOS 5 will be launched, coming native on the 4S and as a free upgrade to the older iPhone 4 and 3GS.

From a hardware standpoint, there wasn’t much “revolutionary” about the iPhone 4S. The processor was upgraded to the dual-core  A5 chip, similar to the proc. that is locate in the iPad 2. The form factor is identical to its predecessor, though it has increased in weight by a mere 3 grams (0.1 ounces, for those non-metric). Screen size is the same “High-resolution Retina display”, displaying images at a resolution 960 x 640.

The battery seems to offer longer talk-time on 3G (8 hours, up from 7), though the spec sheet indicates a decreased standby time of 200 hours, down from 300. Perhaps there is a typo on the spec sheet, because I don’t know how you burn less battery while using an item, but more battery when not using it.

There were some significant steps up over the iPhone 4, however these steps only bring it on-par with some of the other “newer” smart phones on the market (i.e. The Xperia Arc, by Sony Ericsson). Take the camera, for example.

iPhone 4 SpecsThanks to iOS 5, the volume buttons can now be used a shutter button. The camera itself features a wider-aperture lens (f/2.4 – wider means more light and better pictures), an 8-megapixel CMOS sensor and video can be shot in full 1080p. Throw in some cool viewfinder performance tweaks and the auto-steady function on the video camera, and you end up with a very cool camera that you’re more likely to have on you when you need to capture a moment. However, none of these features are “revolutionary” or unique, and it almost makes you wonder if the iPhone 4S has shifted from being an industry leader to more of a “me too” industry follower.

For me, the coolest thing announced today was Sir, the A.I. personal assistant utility that is voice controlled. You want to schedule a meeting, set a timer or ask about the weather? Simply push the button and ask Siri your question, and she (it?) will answer. The cool thing is, you don’t need to memorize a specific verbal syntax to work with Siri.

Siri in action

Tell Siri that you're "in the mood for Italian", and she (it?) makes suggestions. They're even ranked!

You can ask “what is the weather for today”, and Siri will find your answer. Or, if you asked Siri “will it rain today”, Siri will not only display the daily weather (as in the first example), she will answer your question directly with an response that fits… something like “It looks like it will rain in the afternoon” or “there is no rain forcast for the next 24 hours”.

Other than the really cool voice-to-text feature, Siri is able to understand what you ask her by leveraging Concepts. She understands that “weather”, “rain”, “forecast” all belong to the same “idea group”, or Concept. So even if you asked Siri “will I need an umbrella today”, Siri will recognize “umbrella” belongs to the “Weather” Concept, and will return an answer based on the forecast for the next 24 hours. Pretty cool, eh?

Check out this really cool demo video of Siri in action… though I’ve no doubt that a trimmed-down version will soon be airing on TVs everywhere.

Needless to say, the iPhone 4S also takes dictation. So if you ever wanted to feel like Don Draper dictating a memo, simply open the email interface, hit the microphone icon, and start talking. Isn’t it sad that the iPhone will most likely transcribe your speech with better grammar than today’s crop of high school grads could manage?

Steve JobsIn today’s conference Apple covered new things for all their major mobile properties – iPad, iOS 5 and iPod (nano, shuffle and touch) all got some love, but today was really all about the iPhone 4S. About the only thing that wasn’t touched on was the whereabouts (or health) of Steve Jobs. I hope he’s doing OK and resting up – say what you will about Apple and their products, but that guy can captivate a room like no one I’ve seen. As a marketing guy, that’s something I really respect.

So, my only question is: Will I be able to get Telus to agree to a contract extension and give me the new-user discount on the iPhone 4S? I think its worth asking, don’t you?


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