iPad omission: My theory on Siri

iPad omission: My theory on Siri

Summary: A couple of theories about why Apple left Siri out of the third-generation iPad. Mine is that it all comes down to dollars, and Siri's an annuity on the iPhone but a pain on the iPad.

TOPICS: Apple, Browser, iPad, Mobility

iPad omission: A theory on Siri (Jason O'Grady)

One of the biggest omissions in the new iPad is Siri. It was a virtual shoe-in for inclusion in Apple's third-generation iPad but it didn't make the cut and it's a curious omission. Siri runs on the iPhone 4S which has an A5 processor, but the new iPad has an A5X processor which is faster. So it isn't a technical issue, at least specs-wise.

So why did Apple leave the marquee feature from the iPhone 4S out of the third-generation iPad?

Well it didn't entirely. Voice transcription (a.k.a. Siri-light) did make it into the third-gen iPad. This manifests itself in the form of a microphone button that appears on the iPad keyboard (above). Touch it and you can dictate a reply to an email, tweet or status update. But you can't hold the iPad's home button and ask it "How does my calendar look today?" or "What's the weather like?"

Here are a couple of theories about why Apple left Siri out of the third-generation iPad:

On the PowerPage Podcast my co-host Rob Parker suggested that an iPad doesn't always have an Internet connection (like an iPhone does) and since Siri processing is done in the cloud, not having a permanent Internet connection would lead to a bad user experience. ("Siri? Can you hear me?")

I don't buy it.

Another theory is that Siri already has too many users and that it's saturated. As of iOS 5.1 Siri now speaks six languages: English, British English, Australian English, Japanese, French, and German. The thinking is that too many people simultaneously asking Siri silly questions on iPad delivery day (March 16) would make it a bad user experience.

Bah. Doesn't Apple have a new billion-dollar data center just for things like this?

The last, and my personal pet theory is that Apple wants to sell more iPhones. If you want Siri, buy an iPhone. Plain and simple. Apple likely makes more money on iPhone sales because it (famously) commands a kickback from carriers from every user's monthly bill. Therefore Siri on iPhone is an annuity and a cash cow, but Siri on the iPad is just another drain on resources.

Siri will definitely arrive on the iPad at some point, but I hear that it won't happen until Apple delivers iOS 6 and "the new iPhone" in the Fall.

Topics: Apple, Browser, iPad, Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I still go for user experience

    Putting it on the iPad wouldn't dramatically reduce the amount of iPhones sold. Apple often doesn't put 'features' on devices as the experience is not up to par. Imagine being on a wifi iPad and pushing the Home Button to hear nothing or, "I'm sorry but you have not got an active Internet connection so I'm unable to help you. Please try again later." it would become quite frustrating for some. Apple's not going to take that risk.

    My 2 cents
    A Grain of Salt
    • Make Siri Smarter

      If Siri is so smart why can't the reply be; "I don't have an internet connection to help you with an answer. Would you like me to connect you to the internet now so i can help you with that question?"
      • So, Siri can magically connect you to the internet on a

        wi-fi only iPad out of range of any wifi signal?
      • Forgot the /S


        No, then it can tell you that the ability to connect does not exist at this time......
    • It can only be one of three possibilities.

      1. Some technical problem that means actually fitting an iPad with Siri isn't easy.

      I seriously doubt this one. Apple is pretty clever about jamming required hardware into tight spaces. If it fits in a phone it should fit into a pad. Otherwise if its a technical issue it has to be pretty obscure.

      2. Too costly, if they included it they would have to knock up the price just a little.

      Again, I doubt it. They have the tech and how much extra could it really cost if its a feature people really like and use as many iPhone owners with Siri seem to be saying here.

      3. Poor user experience.

      This is most likely the root issue even if issues #1&2 have some minor play in the matter. Why go to the trouble of jamming that little more in, at a little more cost to the manufacturer if what the public is going to get is not a similar experience to what iPhone users get. And why not the same experience? Well, many have pointed out a few great reasons for starters. Where an iPhone is almost always connectible to the net when its on, an iPad is a different story. Holding the iPad up to your face and speaking into it would be a more then slightly awkward looking thing to behold. Its entirely possible Apple is looking at some workarounds that will make Siri a little more tablet friendly in the future, and they feel having iPads now that are simply without, and future iPads with Siri, is better then having the future iPads with "good" Siri and some older ones with "silly Siri".
  • Probably that the special noise reduction has been left out of the ipad.


    They simply may have left out the Audience noise reduction chip from the ipad because it isn't a phone...
    • Agreed

      Not sure if they put that in the new iPad or not, but I also suspect it has something to do with the physical mechanics. It's one thing to press the home button and hold the phone up to your mouth on an iPhone, it's entirely different on a tablet. So, people would resort to using it more from an arm's length on a tablet. It's possible that these mechanics produce a user experience on par with the iPhone, so Apple chose to leave it out.

      I don't buy the capacity theory, beta or not. Apple doesn't do things like this half-arsed. They might release the software in beta to get a broader range of testing, but my guess is they have plenty of capacity.

      I don't buy the "sell more iPhones" theory. I don't think tablets cannibalize phone sales, nor do I think that Siri is such a game changer that it's presence on an iPad is going to provide the user the flexibility to choose Android, Blackberry or WP7 for their phone platform just because they'd have Siri on their iPad. Yes, they continue to make $$$ from the carriers on the iPhone after the initial sale, but Apple focuses on the customer, so I doubt they see iPads as a drain on resources. That's the mentality of the Android OEMs with updates, not Apple.

      I suspect it has more to do with their view of what an acceptable user experience is, and at present, Siri on iPad just doesn't meet their expectations.
      • That's my thought.

        They left the camera off the iG iPad for the same reason, they thought it would be awkward as hell to snap pictures spontaneously with. It's not a phone, you don't hold it up to your ear and talk into it like a phone. It would likely require a headset to be practical. If they tried it and deemed it unusable, like with the 1G's lack-of-camera, then it just wasn't going to be in the final mix.
  • I'll be ok without siri

    I love siri but I think I can live without her for now on the iPad. the new voice dictation will be a added help when using my iPad out in the field when wearing my new iBackFlip somersault sling pack to carry it. If you want a great carrying solution for your new iPad then check this out at ibackflip.com
  • Jason, you left out one of the theories: Siri is *personal* assistant

    It needs to be always with you to work as intended. iPad is less personal device, you will not put it in your pocket.

    So, besides many things, Siri's absense on iPad is conceptual/philosophical one.

    And [b]while Siri will eventually appear there and elsewhere, it will only have supplementary[/b], secondary role comparing to Siri on your phone.
  • I think the kickback funding is the key.

    Apple does get a continuing revenue stream from iPhones but there is no guarantee of one from the iPad, especially the wifi-only variety. Siri is a continuing operational cost, so it makes sense that it be at least partially paid for by the kickbacks from the carriers.
    terry flores
    • Can you then explain...

      • imessage

        imessage is low bandwidth compared to Siri voice samples, so it doesn't really matter in terms of bandwidth kick backs.
        imessage is just another one of Apple's egocentric way of offering proprietary protocols alternatives to industry standard SMS. To this day, they still don't give you the ability to do standard 3G video call on iphones out of the box. Apple likes to create their own alternatives and hope it sticks.
    • Revenue Stream

      I don't think that has been part of Apple's model since the first few years of the deal with AT&T. The "exclusive" with AT&T was extended for a few more years (before the second extension ended and Verizon came on board), but I believe AT&T paid more up front for the phones and stopped the monthly commission paid to Apple. I also don't think such a feature was part of any other carrier deal Apple signed. The big commitment Sprint famously signed with Apple is about the number of phones Sprint is committed to buying over the period of the deal, regardless of whether or not the carrier makes money on the iPhone, but I am unaware of any monthly residual Sprint is paying Apple.

      As to why Siri isn't a part of the iPad, I think the reason is about form factor: Siri compensates for the relative difficulty in entering a lot of information into a search window. With the much more easy-to-use keyboard on the iPad, data entry isn't an issue and Siri isn't more than a parlor trick under those circumstances.

      Furthermore, Siri is a feature differentiator in the smartphone segment, setting iOS apart from Android. Since the iPad doesn't need such a market advantage, given that Android in tablets isn't a factor in the market, then adding it to the iPad would necessarily increase manufacturing costs (microphones upgraded and circuits added) but not increase sales at a commensurate rate.
  • It's probably not just one thing ...

    More than likely, Siri didn't make the cut on iPad for a number of combined reasons.

    The act that many (most?) folks don't carry their iPad around with them all day -- like people do with an iPhone -- would definitely limit how useful Siri would be on an iPad. What good is a personal assistant if "she" isn't around when you need her?

    Second, not all iPads always have a connection to the internet. So, again, what good is a digital assistant if she can't assist you when you need her to?

    Then there's the matter of stealing one of the iPhone's crown jewels. Would Apple hold back on features like that? Sure. They've done it countless times before when they've disabled this or dropped support for that, in order to ensure that the newer gadget was the only way to run some new feature. Siri, herself, is a great example: pre-Apple Siri ran just fine on a plain iPhone 4 (no "s"), and I think even on a 3GS. Yet, when Apple unveiled the new Siri, it was 4S or nothing. Video on the old iPhone 3G was another example.

    Technology limitations may have played a part -- because of how we use an iPad vs an iPhone, particularly how -- and how far away -- we hold an iPad. But I suspect Apple's engineers could have solved that. But it might have cost more, and that could be a reason for not including newer/better noise reduction tech ... or maybe they just couldn't get it working well enough by the final feature lock-in date for the iPad 3.

    In any event, since my iPhone is sitting 12 inches from me now at work, while my iPad is 15 miles away at home, I'd say that I'm one of those folks who can live without Siri on my iPad. Sure, it might be nice to have her there, but I'm not really all that inconvenienced without her.

    I think Apple sees that voice input is the future, so I doubt they'll leave it out of the iPad for much longer. Perhaps they're waiting for iOS 6 and the chance to have the entire OS Siri-enabled, so that you can do far more than Siri is allowed to do now.

    Maybe we'll find out later this year. Until then, all our guessing is just that: guessing. Perhaps someone could ask Siri herself ... ?
  • iPad omission: My theory on Siri

    My theory is that its not as useful as Apple made it out to be. Sure people try it then they forget about it.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Nope

      You'd be wrong on that point. Lots of people I know use it all the time. It is very useful. You just have to have a semblance of an imagination to use it well.
      • Or just be plain lazy...

        Apple does a marvelous job appealing to the sloths on the planet. Seems their plan is to create a world of mindless minions like their famous commercial railed against.
    • Considering...

      that you claim never to have seen an iPhone in the wild, how do you know?
      • Zing