Apple iOS 7 and Siri Close a Big Mobile UM Gap
Apple’s first retail store was established in Santa Monica and is only six blocks away from my home. Although I am not dedicated Apple user, I did want to find out more about their latest product release, so, yesterday afternoon, I walked down to their store and sat in on an iOS7 “training” session for a small group of iPhone users.
Aside from the many bells and whistles that Apple has developed for its smartphone, what caught my attention was the expanded role that their Siri can play for creating mobile text messages and can be considered a step forward in “Unified Messaging” (UM).
UM was a precursor to “Unified Communications” (UC), focused on consolidating voicemail and email text messages for message recipients. It started with simply enabling voicemail and email messages to share common storage, then moved on to “Visual Voicemail,” which allowed message recipients to view the header information of the voicemail message in their unified mailbox. This enabled the recipient to avoid having to listen to all their voicemail messages sequentially, and selectively listen to a particular voice message.
With increased speech recognition capability (and manual transcription services), the technology moved on to “Voicemail-to-text” conversion, which enabled message recipients to more efficiently read a voice mail message, rather than listen to it, and eliminated the need to manually transcribe any key information contained in the voice message.
We have always known that it is easier and faster to speak than to type, and that it is easier and faster to read than to listen, so we have really been waiting for communication technologies to deliver on that vision. Apple’s Siri, in their latest iOS7 mobile operating system, now appears to have closed the UM gap for message originators (senders).
Siri for Mobile Messaging
When users are mobile and have to send text messages, typing becomes difficult, time consuming, and error-prone because of the small alphanumeric key top interface of mobile devices. It becomes even more difficult if the user is on the move, usually requiring the sender to stop to type. So, we have all long been waiting to use speech recognition for creating mobile text messages, not just retrieving voice message,
Why is it so important?
It is not just for the convenience of the message senders, but there are also other practical benefits in sending text rather than voice messages over the networks. Text bandwidth needs are much lower than what voice needs, so originating the message in text is operationally a lot more cost efficient for messaging traffic needs. As more and more end users have become mobile and therefore more accessible for receiving and responding to messages, unified messaging has become more important for efficient person-to-person communications. With other technology improvements, like federated presence and contextual “click-to-connect,” messages will also become a faster and convenient way to initiate voice/video calls as a form of response to a message.
What Apple has done with Siri speech recognition is to simply apply it to text message creation on the sender’s device. This eliminates the need for the recipient to have a voice connection to create and retrieve a voice message. Since speech recognition is never perfect, the sender can also quickly see the text generated by Siri, and make any necessary corrections or additions manually before sending the message.
All I have seen so far was the demo at the Apple store in Santa Monica, but based on that alone, I think they have just raised the bar for unified messaging!