Pointless NYT Report Says Apple Plans to Improve Siri

The Times sent me a news alert for this story — under the three-way byline of Tripp Mickle, Brian X. Chen, and Cade Metz — but I don’t think there’s a single sentence of news in the entire thing. The gist of it is that Apple recognizes that ChatGPT makes Siri look even dumber than it did before and that they plan to use LLM technology to improve it. That’s it.

Determined to catch up in the tech industry’s A.I. race, Apple has made generative A.I. a tent pole project — the company’s special, internal label that it uses to organize employees around once-in-a-decade initiatives.

This is niggling, I know, but if “tent pole projects” only come once per decade at Apple, that means, by the Times’s count, there have only been 4 or 5 since the Macintosh debuted 40 years ago.

The truth is that in Apple lingo, tentpole is used to describe features, not projects, and they aim to ship around three or four tentpole features in every major release. The tentpole features are the ones that get the most time in keynotes. It’d be flabbergasting, given the current state of the tech world and Apple’s teasers, if a much-improved LLM-based Siri were not one of the tentpole features announced at WWDC next month.

(Bonus usage note: New Oxford American — the dictionary Apple licenses to include with MacOS and iOS — has the term as two words, “tent pole”, and thus hyphenated when used as a modifier. But Merriam-Webster closes it up, both as a noun and adjective. The Times isn’t nearly the bastion of consistency and quality that it once was, and, having dismantled its once-legendary copy desk 7 years ago, you’ll be unsurprised to know that in other recent articles tentpole has appeared in closed-up form.)

Friday, 10 May 2024