Friday, November 4, 2011

Siri Silent for 2 Straight Days

No wonder Apple says Siri — its voice-activated “virtual assistant” for the new iPhone — is in beta.
For the second day in a row, Siri suffered intermittent outages that prevented people from using the much talked-about feature in the iPhone 4S, designed to let users schedule appointments, dictate texts and do Web searches with voice commands. While Siri service appeared to be restored for many people during parts of Thursday and Friday, it would often quickly become unavailable again.
An Apple spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment about the Siri problems, which is often how Apple responds as it investigates the causes of technical problems with one of its new devices (see its handling of the iPhone battery-draining bugs earlier this week).
As a number of bloggers and pundits have pointed out, including Jon Gruberat Daring Fireball, Apple labeled Siri a “beta” technology — technospeak for “not quite cooked yet.” It was an unusual move for Apple, which usually seeks to release more fully polished products. Even though it says Siri is in beta, Apple has clearly made the feature one of the main selling points of the device, featuring it prominently in its advertising.
It’s unclear whether users will cut Apple more slack over the Siri outage than they did over MobileMe, an online service whose troubled launch in 2008 turned into a rare debacle for Apple. Since then, Apple has made big investments in its online efforts, including a big data center in North Carolina.
One of the more revealing things about the Siri outage is how the feature depends on a network connection even for tasks that, in theory, wouldn’t seem to require access to the Internet. While it’s understandable that Siri would need to access the Internet to download, say, listings for restaurants in a user’s immediate vicinity, it also needs online access to schedule a lunch appointment and play music stored on an iPhone.
When I tried to do those tasks on Friday afternoon from an iPhone 4S on the Verizon network, Siri responded by saying, “Sorry, I am having trouble connecting to the network” or some variation of that phrase. Without Siri, I had to do all those things with a few taps of the iPhone’s touchscreen, a method that now seems strangely old-fashioned.


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