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Summary:

Siri went down on Thursday for its first extended outage — around five hours, according to most counts. Five hours is hardly three days (like another noteworthy recent mobile service blackout), but the reaction of media and users show Apple’s personal assistant is making its presence felt.

siri-featured

Siri went down on Thursday for its first extended outage — around five hours, according to most counts. That doesn’t seem like an exceedingly long outage (especially compared to the recent multiday service blackout for RIM’s BlackBerry devices), but it sparked many discussion threads and countless news articles. The tenor of much of the talk is that Apple made a major gaffe in allowing this to happen. But in fact, Apple might also want to reflect on this after the fact and pat itself on the back.

Of course, the outage was annoying and inconvenient, and hopefully Apple learned a valuable lesson about managing a large-scale, persistent data service managed from its own server facility, and this will never happen again. But the extent of the outcry as the outage wore on, as well as the attempts on Friday to follow up and try to get to the bottom of what exactly happened, show that Siri’s effect on the mobile landscape is not insignificant.

It could be the case that Apple’s servers couldn’t handle the demand that Siri was putting on the system, as some users who contacted Apple support about the problem were told. That would indicate that Apple underestimated the scale of demand for Siri, which suggests the personal assistant is being used a lot. But even if the problem is independent of demand, the fact that the news of Siri’s going down spread as far and as quickly as it did, and elicited so much response from the user community, indicates that it is finding a place in people’s lives. Some of the media attention could be attributed to the fact that people love when a winner like Apple stumbles, but user concern seems genuine.

When Apple first announced the personal assistant software, I admit to thinking that Siri had limited value beyond triggering an initial feeling of novelty that would fade quickly. After using Siri myself, I found that it actually had a lot of real use value, even in countries where it hasn’t yet gained localization features. The indignation of users affected by the outage indicates that I wasn’t the only one who found myself leaning on Siri a lot more heavily than I expected to.

It’s not as widespread, but the outcry about Siri’s downtime reminds me of the web-wide groans that go up every time the Twitter fail whale makes one of its visits or when Tumblr takes a tumble. That’s a minor PR problem for Apple in the short term, but in the larger picture, it’s a very good thing that people miss Siri when she’s not around.

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  1. In the iPhone 4s/Siri announcement, didn’t Apple clearly state that Siri was in a state of Beta? Is so, then issues like this should be expected.

  2. they fixed the battery drain problem by taking down siri.. its obvious

  3. So by your logic, if consumer’s disappointment over Apple’s outage is a signal of success than is the outcry over RIM’s outage a sign of even greater success? lol

  4. @Mark
    “So by your logic, if consumer’s disappointment over Apple’s outage is a signal of success than is the outcry over RIM’s outage a sign of even greater success? lol”

    It depends on the companies trajectory. Many used RIM so the outage (much longer) was felt but when a company is fading and the problem is not from a new feature that thousands are jumping on board for with their hard earned dollars then it’s not good. With apple it shows how popular just this one feature is on the iPhone 4S. On the surface what you wrote seem to have some logic but if you give it some thought…which more people should start doing.

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