Is Siri getting stupider?

Criticism about Siri -- even from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak -- grows louder as a new lawsuit accuses Apple of misleading advertising

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Apple's support forums, too, are brimming with criticism about Siri's unreliable performance, with complaints that one minute the software works fine but the next it's incapable of connecting with back-end servers to deliver an answer. Other users have posted complaints about the software not properly recognizing voice requests, trouble with making calls, complaints about changes to the sound of "her" voice, and more.

Peppered among the questions and complaints are user recommendations that wiping the device clean will restore Siri's functionality -- though that likely is not advice that Apple would provide. Additionally, several users have pointed out that Siri is a beta product and that users should thus be patient and expect such issues.

The problem with that argument is that Apple has not been clear in its marketing and advertising materials that Siri is in beta status and won't consistently perform as described. "Buried in Apple's website is the amorphous sentence: 'Siri is currently in beta and we'll continue to improve it over time,'" according to the lawsuit.

Indeed, the iPhone section of the Apple website hypes Siri's personal-assistant capabilities, but there's no mention that it's a beta product until you move to the Siri page. There, a little orange box reading "Beta" appears at the top -- but there's no specific explanation or warning about the implications of the beta label, such as "Because this product is currently in beta, it will not function reliably or consistently."

Additionally, if Siri is a beta product, why did Apple choose to build a new smartphone around the software in the first place? A more prudent approach -- one that would not generate criticism and lawsuits -- would have been to roll it out in phases, thus generating interest while testing the limits of the service.

Did Apple truly believe that, even in beta, Siri was ready for prime time? Or did the company arrogantly think, "Hey, we're Apple. We can roll out whatever we want and people will keep using us."

Whether it was arrogance, poor planning, or some combination thereof, Apple should be careful not to squander the admiration and goodwill it's generated over the years. Although Apple still has its fair share of avid supporters, company execs should be more than a little worried about the bad mojo the company has accumulated of late.

Apple's greatest selling points for its products are their reputations for reliability, security, quality design, and ease-of-use -- all factors that contribute to the company's ability to charge a premium for its wares. If the company doesn't lay out a short-term damage-control plan as well as a long-term strategy to restore its invaluable image , it stands to lose hard-won ground to its array of competitors salivating for a piece of the Apple pie.

This story, "Is Siri getting stupider?," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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