Microsoft Officer: Apple’s Siri Not the First of Its Kind

Posted by · November 23, 2011 4:15 pm

After putting up with almost two months of constant clamor over Apple’s voice technology program Siri, which it introduced as a new feature of the iPhone 4S, Microsoft’s Craig Mundie decided that he couldn’t take it anymore. In an attempt to set the record straight, or at least he thought so, Mundie, the company’s chief strategy and research officer, used an interview with Forbes to tell consumers that Apple’s idea was by no means novel.
Now this is an opportunity for Microsoft to learn a couple valuable lessons.

Lesson #1: If you’ve got a good product, make sure people know about it.

The argument of who introduced this kind of voice technology first is a moot point. The fact that it took nearly two months for Microsoft to finally reply to the introduction of Siri by saying that a similar program has been on the Window’s Phone for over a year is indicative of a much deeper problem.

You see, coming up with a new piece of technology that is going to revolutionize the way that people obtain information is only half the battle. The other, arguably more important half is to make sure that people actually know that you made it. Otherwise, you might as well save the time and money it took to develop it in the first place.

This is the reason that Mundie’s response comes across as somewhat of a juvenile complaint, rather than a calm reassertion.

Instead of downplaying the hype that Apple has brilliantly generated with its introduction of Siri, perhaps it’s time for Microsoft to consider a similar, more holistic strategy to the way that it introduces new features, especially features that rattle the foundation of information retrieval to the extent that these types of voice technology do.

Lesson #2: Like it or not, people use phones for more than just talking to other people.

Another surprising thing Mundie said in the interview had to do with the way that phone users interact with Siri.

“You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone,” he argued. “You should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone.”

Now this is concerning for two reasons. First, long before Siri or the Microsoft equivalent, phones have been used as more than a means of interpersonal communication. For years, a significant percentage of cell phone bills account for data plans, which allow consumers to use their phones as small, mobile computers for retrieving information, not speaking with other people.

Second, if this is the way that Microsoft’s chief strategy and research officer feels, this doesn’t bode well for the technology giant’s future.

While Mundie might be right that Microsoft is going to be able to enjoy another holiday season sustained primarily by the so-called “Kinect effect,” a rude awakening may be imminent if Mundie is as out of touch with the mobile market as this interview makes him seem.