We have a bit of a digital-assistant war brewing in the tech world. In addition to Apple’s Siri, we have Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and, eventually, Facebook’s MoneyPenny. Everybody’s out to provide users with the most helpful fake secretaries imaginable, and even productivity app Slack is getting in on the action.
But while touting upcoming improvements to the chat platform’s helper, Slackbot, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield had some strong words about its rival in your iPhone or Apple Watch.
“Apple spent billions of dollars on Siri and worked on it for a very long time with hundreds of engineers and a huge dataset of voices – and it’s f–ing idiotic,” Butterfield said in a recent interview. “Siri is nearly useless.”
The comment came out of a talk with the Wall Street Journal blog, and it wasn’t all trash talk about the helpful robot who fetches me an instant track list of 50 David Bowie songs every time I have a long drive ahead. Butterfield mostly wanted to talk about the future of Slackbot.
He compares Slackbot’s upcoming functionality, which he says will allow the program to talk to thousands of people simultaneously, to a similar program in director Spike Jonze’s oddball film Her. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a man who falls in love with the his phone’s operating system before it ultimately rejects him and starts seeing another program. Hopefully, Slackbot can keep romantic entanglements out of the workplace.
Slack is most popular among businesses for helping co-workers remotely confer and share files, and Butterfield hopes Slackbot will eventually become the hub of the virtual workplace, with full operational and institutional knowledge. It will know who’s working on what, for example, and who is away on vacation.
All of this remains in the realm of hope, however, because these improvements are still in early planning. Incredibly early planning, in fact; the company has only recently hired its first data scientist, who will work on how best to pull data and figure out how Slackbot can use it.
So don’t feel bad, Siri — that version of Slackbot that makes you look really dumb isn’t going to be around for a few years.