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Microsoft's Secret Weapon Could Destroy Apple's Siri


Microsoft has a weapon in its back pocket. It's time to pull it out against Apple's Siri.


My Apple (AAPL) iPhone 4S is the best gadget I've ever owned. The snazzy, high-resolution Retina display, high-quality camera, dizzying array of apps, and amazing battery life (yes, I get amazing battery life on my 4S) suit my mobile-computing needs to a tee.

But as it turns out, the 4S is not quite perfect in my eyes.


Because of Apple's voice-activated "assistant," Siri.

As an Apple shareholder, I say Siri has been a blessing because its inclusion in the 4S was a brilliant piece of stealth marketing. It gave boatloads of people an excuse to pull out their new phones and show them to other people.

"Let's ask Siri to find a Mexican restaurant around here!"

"Let's ask Siri the meaning of life!"

"Let's ask Siri where to hide the body!"

It was just oodles of fun to ask Siri both useful and ridiculous questions just to see what she'd say.

But the reality is that Siri does not work as well as intended.

For example, in order to work, Siri must be connected to the Internet so she can reach Apple's servers -- a nice way for Apple to collect data on how folks use their phones.

And you know what that means?

When I'm in my bedroom, where my Wi-Fi and 3G reception aren't that great, I can't set my iPhone's alarm! Why should I have to ping Apple's servers to complete a task that does not require data from the Internet?

Furthermore, at least half the time, Siri doesn't understand what I'm saying, especially when I'm in public. And I'm not the only one. At least two lawsuits have been filed against Apple, alleging false advertising regarding Siri's capabilities.

A complaint filed by David Jones of California noted this experience: "...Plaintiff would ask Siri for directions to a certain location, or to pinpoint a business, and Siri either would not understand what Plaintiff asked, or, after a long wait, provided the wrong answer."

Now, it's obvious that Apple pulled a pretty slick stunt with Siri, which it has described as being "currently in beta," even though unlike competitors such as Google (GOOG), it never puts "beta" products in front of the public's eyes.

I mean, if Siri really was in beta, why would Apple make it a distinct focal point in marketing for the iPhone 4S?

And why would it be aggressively pushed in the 4S' unveiling?:

Sorry, Apple, you can't have it both ways!

It's just plain wrong to use Siri as a marketing tool, but then use the whole "beta" thing as an excuse when there are technical problems.

I believe that the deflation of public enthusiasm for Siri presents an opportunity for rival companies to make moves with their own voice-activated digital assistants.

As implied by the title, Microsoft (MSFT) is specifically suited to succeed with a Siri rival.

And let me tell you, it needs a boost.

While Microsoft has been pushing Windows Phone big time, it's been a flop. According to Gartner, Microsoft's smartphone operating-system market share was a pathetic 1.9% in the fourth quarter of 2011, versus 50.9% for Android and 23.8% for Apple:

Heck, even Bada beat Microsoft!

By the way -- if anyone can tell me what Bada is, please drop me a line via the comment section below. I asked Siri and she didn't know...

So back to the story.

Yes, the underwhelming Siri has created an opportunity for Microsoft to one-up it with a blast from the past.

And that blast is...

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