Why Apple gave up on Siri

I have always wondered why Apple completely gave up on Siri introduced with much fanfare in 2011. In 6 years, Siri has barely moved an inch forward. Oh yes, it got a new voice this year. Lipstick on a pig. 

It is baffling. Why would Apple give up on Siri and let it rot while Amazon, Google and even Microsoft kept making better voice controlled assistants for their platforms? 

The answer lies in the fundamental difference between Apple and the other big tech companies. Apple is the only company that makes money by primarily selling hardware whereas all the others - Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook - primarily make money via software. 

For Apple - the money comes from milking the iPhone cash cow every year. Every year - they need to introduce some differentiating feature or 'hook'  - sometimes useful, sometimes gimmicky - but always exciting - to convince enough people to upgrade - every year. But once that upgrade cycle is done, when that feature has already served its one true purpose - to sell phones - the feature is mostly ignored as Apple moves on to the next hook. 

People often mistake these features as a long-term Apple commitment to push their platform forward, and while sometimes that might happen, it is mostly not the case. Siri was NOT a novel platform feature commitment to drive voice recognition ahead - instead - it was a way to try and sell iPhone 4s. That's pretty much it. It being 'better' would not sell new phones because something 'completely different' is often needed to excite and move mass market. 

Here is a list of key features by phone and most hooks - specially if software based - didn't see much love in the years to come. 

  • 2011 - iPhone 4s - Siri
  • 2012 - iPhone 5 - 4" display
  • 2013 - iPhone 5s - Touch ID
  • 2014 - iPhone 6/plus - 4.7"/5.5" displays, Apple Pay
  • 2015 - iPhone 6s/plus - Live Photos, 3D Touch
  • 2016 - iPhone 7/plus - No Jack, Telephoto lens in Plus
  • 2017 - iPhone 8/plus - Wireless charging
  • 2017 - iPhone X - Wireless charging, Larger screen/small size, Face ID

Apple didn't so much as 'give up' on Siri - it just didn't see it as a tool to sell more phones so it stopped bothering with it. 

This same theory can be applied to other products (Apple Photos, Maps, Reminder, Messages, etc.)  that seem to just languish and I keep wondering why one of the largest technology companies in the world cannot make better software of improve their software faster. Some of those apps are needed for a platform completeness checkpoint - but none of those things are platform-defining and even if they are - they won't sell phones.