Water In The Desert - Why Apple Didn't Launch Siri For The iPad


One of the features not brought to the iPad was, somewhat surprisingly, Siri.  Instead, Apple announced a dictation option for translating your words to text.  Apple ordinarily does an excellent job of adapting features of one product line for another; and at first glance Siri would appear to be an excellent fit for their tablets. But a close look at how Apple has presented Siri to the public shows why it could not have been brought to the iPad in a way that preserves it’s concise, understandable messaging.

Apple’s advertisements for Siri go beyond simply describing features; they lay out specific use cases. Siri has two primary functions -- providing information and interacting with closed first party apps. Apple's grand vision for their virtual assistant revolves around sending and receiving information. In ads Siri is almost always used for the retrieval or conveyance of information in situations where that  information would have otherwise been out of reach. iPhone is the only device visible and the character is doing something that takes them away from their myriad Internet connected devices.  

Someone out on a jog or slicing bananas does not have a laptop close at hand, at least not in Apple’s version of daily events. Their ordinary activities have placed them in the midst of an information and accessibility desert. They can not access a device other than their phone and can not use their phone in an ordinary manner. Siri is a clear way of giving the weary digital traveller a glass of water -- it provides the capabilities they need in a format they can use. Checking the traffic on a phone while driving is inadvisable, but Siri can do that for you. It’s difficult to convert measurements without using your thumbs, but Siri makes that a breeze. Siri on the 4S is easy to market, easy to use, and easy to fit into your mobile workflow. It’s a solution to problems many face when travelling off the beaten path.

Siri on the iPad does not have as clear of a use case. The iPad is a large living room device that people can not take out while jogging or driving their car; it does not possess the gracious approachability of the iPhone. The information and accessibility deserts mobile Siri transcends so wonderfully could not be conquered by Siri on the iPad. When an iPad is available, on a couch or in bed, there is no clear problem voice recognition addresses. Need to look at the weather? Open your weather application on your phone or flip to the weather channel on on a nearby television. Need to know what traffic is like? Open up a rich web page that has more detail than Siri would ever provide.

On the iPad Siri would not have the unique convenience it has on the iPhone 4S. Adding new features to enable a marketable iPad Siri would require a major retooling of the way the service functions. At a bare minimum Apple would need to add servers on the back end and rich new features on the front. Siri is still in beta, it would be a tad ridiculous to expect a major revamp this early in it’s life cycle.

Apple will eventually add Siri to the iPad, and probably the Mac as well, but it isn’t happening now and it won’t happen for a long while. Cupertino needs to add functionality and take Siri out of beta before it can even hope to begin the process. Siri as it stands can not be transported to to a tablet without making it noticeably inferior. Apple needs to decide which desert Siri will be bringing glasses of water too. They need to take a critical look at a common computing problem and provide a grand answer to it. Porting an unmodified Siri would simply delay the necessity of differentiating it from Siri on the iPhone while wasting resources Apple could need for the development of more unique products.