When Apple announced the iPhone 4S, some were instantly disappointed because the device looks the same as its older sibling, the iPhone 4. But iOS 5 is a marked improvement, and the new phone comes with updated internals, including an amazing camera. But that’s not the only reason the iPhone 4S is a marked improvement. There’s also Siri, the software that lets you give commands and ask question in natural language, just as you would in a normal, human-to-human conversation.
Nick Bilton of The New York Times said yesterday that Siri isn’t stopping at iPhones, it’s coming all the way into your living room. Some users of Microsoft’s Kinect motion-and-voice sensor for Xbox 360 may balk at the idea that Apple would be revolutionizing anything by bringing Siri to TV. But I’m one of those users, and if Siri does on a TV what it does on a mobile phone, Kinect will look very twentieth century.
I use Kinect with Netflix to control playback. Sometimes, a character on the show or movie I’m watching says something in a certain way and Netflix just starts rewinding. The character never says ”rewind” before this happens, which makes it even more annoying. Netflix is the only practical use for Kinect’s voice commands on Xbox at the moment, so Microsoft needs to roll out more functionality very quickly to stay relevant. Any hardware release by Apple for use as a primary television will likely come with the same price premium most of the their products do, so companies like Microsoft and even Sony (who recently bought out Ericsson’s stake in their Sony-Ericsson partnership) have a potential price advantage.
But, anecdotally, I can tell you that Siri has played a large part in some of my friends picking up an iPhone 4S, even switching carriers to do so in some cases. All things being equal, an internet-connected high definition television device by Apple with Siri will, well, nothing about that will be equal. People will save money and re-acquire large credit card debts to get their paws on it. Competing televisions will show up on eBay and craigslist. Apple will, in short, win.
Maybe not win in units sold (although despite buzz about a forthcoming update, Google TV isn’t exactly moving units, either), maybe not win in openness, maybe not win in customizability. But if Apple does release a television, they’ll do what they usually do: win in hearts and minds. They’ll win because they’ll become, once again, the makers of the device that sets the bar, that changes the game.
Image via Sh*t That Siri Says.