My impressions from watching Apple’s developer conference keynote.
Siri and Machine Learning
- To-date, Siri improvements have been meaningful, but modest, especially if you recall that Siri debuted 3.5 years ago.
- This is the first keynote where Apple used the terms “machine learning” and “deep linking”.
- Between Siri intelligence (project Proactive), the News app, Apple’s data center build out, and competitive pressure from Google, my hypothesis is that Apple has put its foot down on machine learning and intelligence. And that doesn’t even take into account the machine learning Apple will need if it pursues a car.
If there’s a list of Apple’s top-5 computing priorities for the next five years, I believe machine learning is on it
- If there’s a list of Apple’s top-5 computing priorities for the next five years, I believe machine learning is on it. Mark Gurman, who writes for 9to5Mac, mentioned this on his appearance on The Talk Show:
A lot of this is really to tackle Google […] It’s very hard to just […] one day […] decide to drop Google search from your platform. [But] year over year, Apple is adding features that […] reduce the reliance on Google […] teaching the consumer that Google is not necessary.
- Still not convinced? How about this, from Apple’s iOS 9 preview page (bold emphasis is mine):
“Siri powers a more intelligent Search. […] [it’s] the technology that powers Search on your iPhone and iPad. And now you can get even more answers when you type in the Search field. […] A head start on every search. […] Your search screen is prepopulated […].”
Machine learning is to 21st century devices as the graphical user interface was to 20th century computers [in terms of how] critical it will be to a high-performance product
- I’m changing my mind about Google’s data-volume-based advantaged. I believe Apple sees a volume of (anonymized) user data that’s on the same order of magnitude as Google (on mobile). Google Now may provide Google with more question / intent data, but Apple sees the bigger picture of what consumers (in aggregate) do / need throughout the day. I base my belief on iOS’ huge installed base, high app downloads and usage, and Apple’s full-stack access to iOS devices.
- With so many dots to connect: Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Siri, Maps, News, HealthKit, HomeKit, and CarPlay, Apple will have great opportunities to add value to consumer’s daily life.
- Machine learning is to 21st century devices as the graphical user interface was to 20th century computers. I don’t mean that as a user interface metaphor, but as a way to express how critical it will be to a high-performance product.
- Apple is poised to deliver Siri’s proactive features to a broad user base very quickly:
- Math: iOS has a larger unified installed base X faster adoption of iOS releases X support for more legacy devices.
- Select unknowns:
- Impact of 3rd party support (to Google Now on Tap or Siri’s proactive features) to growth.
- Impact of Apple’s self-imposed privacy guidelines on the feature set / consumer uptake.
[Apple’s] odds of “proficiency” are high. But the odds of being better than Google are not great.
- So, can Apple develop world-class machine learning capability?
- At a super high level, let’s consider the large scale data products that Apple has developed in the past few years: Messages, Siri, Maps, iCloud, Apple Pay. Without getting into details here, the track record of these services is mixed, to say the least. So, odds of success with machine learning? Well, the odds of “proficiency” are high. But the odds of being better than Google are not great. Possible, but not great.
- Note, no one has achieve true “proactive” assistance yet. Here’s my very rough scale:
If you’re Samsung, Lenovo, or Xiaomi what do you do to differentiate from Apple or other Android OEMs?
- Which brings up another point: how soon until “Hey, Siri” works a) un-tethered and b) with the proactive features?
- For a comparison of Siri’s intelligence features vs. Google Now and Cortana, see this.
- Finally, all this is yet another reason why Android and Windows OEMs will perennially struggle to do more than stay on the treadmill. If you’re Samsung, Lenovo, or Xioami, what do you do to differentiate from Apple or other Android OEMs?