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十五年以前,当对于高度重视集成软件和硬件的后PC设备的时机成熟之时,苹果曾是占据最高领导地位的公司--它确实是。苹果公司的垂直整合,它对在软硬件上的细节和创新的关注,以及它敢于投下大赌注的雄心,给了它很大的优势。它利用这些优势接二连三做了现在众所周知的一系列动作--改变像iPod, iPhone, MacBook Air, and iPad等产品。

现在,iPod基本上是消失了,而其他产品已经在一个成熟或即将成熟的市场, 不瘟不火。

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高新技术产业即将转向一个新战场:人工智能, 这个战场将会蔓延到许多设备。

亚马逊 Echo 的成功, 以及在最近 Facebook 特别是谷歌开发者大会上发布的计划,似乎表明高新技术产业很大程度上正转向人工智能和主动援助(proactive assistance)。苹果在这个领域有一些作为,但要做到它的竞争对手所计划的那样还是极具挑战的。


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但是苹果也许在即将到来的AI战争中会有一段艰难的路要走——即使它实际上五年前在iPhone5上开创了首个广泛使用的语音控制的并基于云数据的AI助理Siri,并且现在有传言称要把Siri放到Mac里。(实际上,以前的苹果CEO John Sculley提出了一个人工智能为动力的名叫知识导航器的会话助理的概念,且早在1987年完成了概念视频。它设想了一个所具备的能力远远超出任何现有产品的对话数字助手。)


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Apple and the cloud: a match not made in heaven

As cloud-based services gradually grew in importance, Apple provided some of those to complement its devices, under a variety of sometimes confusing names, and with a mixed record of success.

It was early to syncing contacts and calendar items among your Apple devices. It could keep track, across devices, of songs you purchased in iTunes. Its iMessage and FaceTime services have been big hits, and have helped keep people in Apple's world. And, in Apple's biggest move of all, in 2011 it introduced the voice-controlled, artificial intelligence service called Siri as a feature of the iPhone.

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Along the way, however, Apple also acquired a reputation for being generally weak in the scope and reliability of its online services.

Remember MobileMe? What about Ping?

Its MobileMe suite of cloud-based services was a famous flop and the name was dropped. So was its Ping music-centric social network. And the cloud and data based Apple Maps service, out since 2012, was the butt of jokes and is still inferior to Google Maps, even on the iPhone — though it's improving and is now more popular than Google's app on iOS.

iTunes Match and the iCloud Photo Library perform inconsistently, to say the least. The cloud-based Apple Music, which should have been a strength for the digital music titan, is a cluttered mess, and hard to figure out how to use. The most recent news around Apple's music service has been about users believing it deletes files, not about any of its artist exclusives.

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直到最近,因为iCloud Drive尚不成熟,苹果甚至抵制提供用一个简单而常见的基于云数据的虚拟硬盘来储存文件,就像Google Drive, Dropbox, 或者Microsoft's OneDrive那样.我怀疑,后果将会是大部分苹果用户不再依赖它。



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After Apple bought Siri, the giant company seemed to treat it as a backwater, restricting it to doing only a few, slowly increasing number of tasks, like telling you the weather, sports scores, movie and restaurant listings, and controlling the device's functions. Its unhappy founders have left Apple to build a new AI service called Viv.

And, on too many occasions, Siri either gets things wrong, doesn't know the answer, or can't verbalize it. Instead, it shows you a web search result, even when you're not in a position to read it.

Siri isn't the type of natural-language helper the industry is aiming to build now

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Last year, Apple added a Siri feature called "Proactive" — a sort of catch-up to Google Now, which shows recent apps, recent contacts, nearby retail services, and a few headlines. Proactive also remembers music you were in the middle of playing, suggests people to include in an email, and tries to identify phone numbers in email, among a few other things. But it isn't a full-bodied smart assistant or the type of natural language helper the industry is aiming to build now.

And, unlike Google's current voice assistant, Siri — at least in my experience — can't recall what you were talking about when you try to ask a followup question.

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I'll be looking for Apple to show a greatly expanded Siri at WWDC in a couple of weeks, and to maybe even open it to third-party developers. In fact, there's a report that Apple plans to do just that, and is also working on a Siri-powered home speaker.

Unless Apple really does these things — and keeps doing more — I will regard Siri as one of the tech world's biggest wasted opportunities.

Do I know you?

If a company knows a lot about you, there's reason to worry that it's invading your privacy. But if a company knows too little about you, there's reason to question its ability to build highly useful artificial intelligence into its products.

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Google and Facebook know — or can infer — a lot about you, from your favorite films to your age and family size to your job and hobbies. But because it is so wedded to privacy, Apple says it can't access your cloud-based information. It's so dedicated to privacy, in fact, that it has taken on the FBI over encryption.

At last year's WWDC, when it introduced Proactive, Apple made a big point of saying that it doesn't need to scoop up cloud-based data to make Siri smarter — it can just use what's local on the phone, with your OK.

Apple won't have the same kind of sources Google and Facebook have to draw upon

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Maybe so. But I'm skeptical that Apple will be able to customize a chatbot or sophisticated Siri request with just what's locally stored on my phone. Already, most of my music, photos, and emails aren't stored locally. So that leaves Apple less to work with.

If I ask Facebook or Google to recommend a restaurant I'd like in, say, Milwaukee, with no further information, Google might know my tastes and price ranges from restaurant searches I did in another city. Facebook might know them from posts I liked or from what my close friends posted. Apple won't have those kinds of sources to draw upon.

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在这场竞争角逐中我支持苹果公司。 因为更多的竞争对每个人都更好。 但我有自己的顾虑。所以我会在19天之后紧密关注对于人工智能公司的说法。 你也应该这样。

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