Is Siri a success for Apple? [Poll]

Oh, Siri. Apple’s little voice-activated personal assistant in iOS can handle questions, give recommendations, and delegate requests, but does it really live up to expectations?

The folks in Cupertino like to roll out advertisements that show Siri capable of compiling individual preferences with personalized results, and even completing basic tasks like finding a nearby restaurant, but the software met very mixed reactions after it Beta-débuted on the iPhone 4S in October. Those who felt misled by Siri’s functionality depicted in commercials eventually sought reimbursement by filing a class action lawsuit against Apple earlier this year.

Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky wrote about how chief executive Tim Cook is changing Apple in an interesting piece this morning, but he also touched upon the contention surrounding Siri. He noted Apple’s future relies on the quality of its products, which holds true for any company, but then he pointed to the iOS-maker’s knowledge navigator:

“Those looking for deficiencies have found them in Siri, a less-than-perfect product that Apple released with the rare beta label in late 2011, a signal that the service shouldn’t be viewed as fully baked. Siri’s response time has been slow, meaning the servers and software powering it are inadequate. ‘People are embarrassed by Siri,’ says one former insider. ‘Steve would have lost his mind over Siri.’”

It is interesting that an unnamed insider claimed Jobs would “lose his mind” over Siri, especially because it is well-known the late CEO worked with former Siri founder and subsequent Apple Engineering Director Dag Kittlaus on the project. Kittlaus admitted last March at Network World that Jobs felt they “cracked it” in regards to Siri, which alludes to the chief’s satisfaction with the voice assistant and contrasts with the insider’s opinion.

The poll is after the break.

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‘Inside Apple’ offers a glimpse into Apple’s secret unboxing room

Apple pays utmost attention to the unforgettable experiences customers get from interacting with their thoughtfully designed product packaging, as evident in countless unboxing videos on the web. It is little surprise, then, that the company goes to great lengths to create lasting unboxing experiences.

With that said, of course the company has a dedicated “secret” room to test various packaging designs. It is somewhat akin to Jony Ive’s design bunker in that it is a place where many prototypes are being iterated exhaustively, per Apple’s famous penchant for perfection. Apple even has a number of patents, such as this filing outlining an active packaging for products that will allow Apple to change what is inside on the fly.

According to an excerpt from Adam Lashinsky’s upcoming book titled “Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired – and Secretive – Company Really Works,” Apple agonizes over how its products are packaged as much as the hardware inside:

To fully grasp how seriously Apple executives sweat the small stuff, consider this: For months, a packaging designer was holed up in this room performing the most mundane of tasks – opening boxes.

According to the author, Apple once stuffed the room with hundreds of iPod box prototypes, testing each one of them until the company settled with the final design:
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Lengthy excerpt from ‘Inside Apple’ offers fascinating insight into secrecy at Apple

Fortune just published a long, fascinating excerpt from an upcoming book about Apple called “Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired and Secretive Company Really Works by author Adam Lashinsky, Fortune’s senior editor-at-large. It reveals how far the company is willing to go to ensure its secretive culture. It also tells a tale of Apple’s organizational structure and what makes them tick. Interestingly, Lashinsky writes that Apple’s design guru Jonathan Ive is among the “untouchables,” corroborating claims laid out in the official Jobs biography book by Walter Isaacson. Apple’s late CEO told his biographer that he made sure nobody can touch his “spiritual partner” Ive at Apple. “That’s the way I set it up,” he told Isaacson. Speaking of Apple’s famous culture of secrecy and lack of corporate transparency (at Apple, everything is a secret!), Lashinsky writes it takes two basic forms —external and internal. Needles to say, many employees can hardly stomach security policies focused on preserving internal secrets:

Apple employees know something big is afoot when the carpenters appear in their office building. New walls are quickly erected. Doors are added and new security protocols put into place. Windows that once were transparent are now frosted. Other rooms have no windows at all. They are called lockdown rooms: No information goes in or out without a reason.

As you could imagine, this is “disconcerting” for employees. Organization charts are nowhere to be seen at Apple. There are no open doors as folks use badges to access areas that sometimes even their boss cannot. Only few people at Apple are allowed into Jonathan Ive’s industrial design bunker. People working on hot projects are required to sign “extra-special agreements acknowledging that you were working on a super-secret project and you wouldn’t talk about it to anyone – not your wife, not your kids.” Even former employees do not talk to press and some were reprimanded for talking too much. Apple goes to great lengths to prevent secrets from leaking and maintain discipline culminates with carefully orchestrated media events akin to a blockbuster Hollywood movie-opening weekend.

People working on launch events will be given watermarked paper copies of a booklet called Rules of the Road that details every milestone leading up to launch day. In the booklet is a legal statement whose message is clear: If this copy ends up in the wrong hands, the responsible party will be fired.

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Adam Lashinsky’s look ‘Inside Apple’ profiles iOS head Scott Forstall as Apple’s ‘CEO-in-waiting’

Fortune Senior Editor-at-large Adam Lashinsky’s upcoming book about Apple’s inner workings titled Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired and Secretive Company Really Works” is bound to become controversial. Unlike Steve Jobs’ authorized biographer Walter Isaacson, Lashinsky did not have direct access to Apple’s leadership team, employees nor did he have Jobs’ cooperation. Nevertheless, the author has deep connections so his book draws from this expertise, focusing on Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs, current CEO Tim Cook, design chief Jonathan Ive and head of iOS software Scott Forstall (pictured on the right). The young executive (43) has managed to accumulate power, and he now wields tremendous influence at Apple due to his iOS division contributing to as much as 70 percent of Apple’s total revenues. As such, Forstall is seen as Apple’s next CEO once Tim Cook steps down, which probably will not happen until 2021 if he is to vest his 1 million stock shares awarded last August. Here is how one source described Forstall in Lashinsky’s upcoming book, according to Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

He’s a sharp, down-to-earth, and talented engineer, and a more-than-decent presenter. He’s the total package.

Lashinsky conceded and explained:

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Adam Lashinsky’s look ‘Inside Apple’ will be released on Jan. 25

Fortune Sr. Editor-at-Large Adam Lashinsky spent the last few years digging deep inside Apple looking for what makes Apple, Inc., tick. Fortune ran a bit earlier this year in a cover story called “How Apple works: Inside the world’s biggest startup,” and it holds up as a fascinating read. The full version of the book, “Inside Apple,” is tabulated at 240-to-272 pages and hits stores Jan. 25. It is currently available for pre-order at $16.92 for the hardcover or $12.99 for the Kindle version and $17.92 for the Audio version.

INSIDE APPLE reveals the secret systems, tactics and leadership strategies that allowed Steve Jobs and his company to churn out hit after hit and inspire a cult-like following for its products.If Apple is Silicon Valley’s answer to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, then author Adam Lashinsky provides readers with a golden ticket to step inside. In this primer on leadership and innovation, the author will introduce readers to concepts like the “DRI” (Apple’s practice of assigning a Directly Responsible Individual to every task) and the Top 100 (an annual ritual in which 100 up-and-coming executives are tapped a la Skull & Bones for a secret retreat with company founder Steve Jobs).Based on numerous interviews, the book offers exclusive new information about how Apple innovates, deals with its suppliers and is handling the transition into the Post Jobs Era. Lashinsky, a Senior Editor at Large for Fortune, knows the subject cold: In a 2008 cover story for the magazine entitled The Genius Behind Steve: Could Operations Whiz Tim Cook Run The Company Someday he predicted that Tim Cook, then an unknown, would eventually succeed Steve Jobs as CEO.While Inside Apple is ostensibly a deep dive into one, unique company (and its ecosystem of suppliers, investors, employees and competitors), the lessons about Jobs, leadership, product design and marketing are universal. They should appeal to anyone hoping to bring some of that Apple magic to their own company, career, or creative endeavor.

Lashinsky also interviewed Walter Isaacson Dec 14th (posted last week) which turned into an interesting conversation. The two authors, who were both deep diving into Apple, shared notes —so to speak.

One subject we are looking forward to learning more about is Apple University. Lashinsky originally laid it out like this:

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Fortune releases ‘All About Steve’

Fortune just released a new Kindle eBook entitled All about Steve: The Story of Steve Jobs and Apple from the Pages of Fortune…

Steve Jobs’ legacy is clear: The most innovative business leader of our time, the man FORTUNE named CEO of the Decade in 2009. Now from the pages of FORTUNE comes an anthology of 17 classic stories spanning the years 1983 to 2011 about the cultural icon who revolutionized computing, telephones, movies, music, retailing, and product design. The stories lay out in unparalleled detail the career of a man with relentless drive and a single underlying passion—to carry out his vision of how all of us would use technology. Writes managing editor Andy Serwer in the book’s foreward: “In the end he was proved right a billion times over, and his company Apple became one of the most successful enterprises on the planet.” All these stories are the product of deep reporting. In many cases FORTUNE’s writers spent hours interviewing Jobs and delving into his mind. The result is a singular journalistic collection, which will leave you with a comprehensive picture of Steve Jobs and Apple, a picture that is complex in the making yet simple in its triumph.

The report includes Adam Lashinsky’s recent investigative piece, Inside Apple, which gives a behind-the scenes look at how the company really works. Lashinsky is also writing a standalone book on Apple due later.

Full Press Release and blown up ‘book cover’ follows:

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