Apple released a PSA last night: Siri is a tool first, companion second

Something struck me about the two new iPhone 4S and Siri ads Apple released last night, especially Joke, but I didn’t get it until now. Both ads star John Malcovich lounging in his subtly magnificent sitting room, but Joke features him speaking a series of one-word commands to Siri that practically feel like verbal equivalents of tapping on a particular app to get a particular piece of information. “Weather.” “Evening.” “Linguica.” “Joke.” Apple seems to want to remind us that, underneath the clever responses and artificial personality, Siri is a tool meant to help us get more done with less.

All of Apple’s other ads portray Siri as an early version of your very own Wall-E-meets-Asimo; a personal assistant you can banter with while asking for snippets of information and mundane tasks to be done. But I’ve seen a sentiment from plenty of users that trying to learn and adjust for Siri’s banter and request syntax is more cumbersome than just tapping Weather and Calendar, or opening Yelp and typing “Linguica.”

In “Joke,” Apple shows that Siri doesn’t need all the banter, that if you’d rather dispense with the pleasantries, Siri can get right down to business. Direct, succinct commands like these (and yes, they work) could very well be the efficiency boost some users want out of a robotic vocal assistant that they perceive as more of a tool, not a companion.