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Why Siri and Not Assistant

Tim Bajarin, via John Gruber:

Yes, Siri is an important product for enhancing our user interface with the iPhone. But Siri is in its infancy. When it grows up, it will be the front end to all types of searches conducted on iPhones, iPads, Mac’s and even Apple TV. And, if I were Google or Microsoft, perhaps I too would be playing down the impact of Siri since they know full well that it is not just a threat to their product platforms, but to their core businesses of search as well. In fact, they should be quaking in their boots since Apple is taking aim at their cash cow search businesses with their technology and could very well impact their fortunes dramatically in the future.

In the run up to the iPhone 4S’s unveiling, everyone believed the natural language voice recognition feature would be called Assistant. Apple Assistant. Voice Assistant. iPhone Assistant. When we learnt that they had decided to keep the Siri name, a known brand to a small set of U.S. users but largely alien to the rest of the world (>75% of the iPhone market), it seemed like an odd decision.
Naming the interface Siri instead of Assistant makes more and more sense every day. It’s a distinct, tangible, and ownable brand (yes, I said that), with personality and the potential to become more than a verb. People won’t be saying “Let me Siri that”, they’ll say “Let me ask Siri”.
iTunes’ Genius feature is an example of an Apple naming convention that I assumed Assistant would follow: a standard word rendered with an initial cap that was immediately recognizable, and with enough exposure and excellence, stood a chance at being closely associated with the company.
Apple has always said “iPhone” and not “the iPhone” in reference to their platform and product line, but it was a subtle naming distinction. Few consumers are going to mirror that thinking and say “I’m considering switching to iPhone” over “I’m gonna switch to an iPhone”. Given its potential and role as an intermediary — while it makes certain tasks effortless, and the necessary steps invisible, it is itself highly visible (and enjoyable so) — Siri had to be much more obvious.
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