The story behind the 2010 startup success: Siri (why it’s so important to Apple’s future)

You know Siri. Back in February I said that if you miss Siri you’ll miss the future of the Web.

Apple didn’t miss it. Just a few days after that blog ran Apple bought Siri for somewhere around $200 million.

It is the 2010 startup success of the year.

But here’s the first part of the story behind the success from the people actually involved: the venture capitalists and the exec at one of the most important research labs in Silicon Valley, SRI International (it’s where the mouse was invented). The second part of the video will be up Thursday on Building43.

This is the most interesting conversation I’ve had so far this year about a startup. Some things you’ll learn:

1. Why this company is so strategic to Apple’s future.
2. What happened when Apple called.
3. Why this company is a continuation of work that Douglas Engelbart started in the 1960s.
4. What the secret sauce is behind Siri.
5. Why the venture capitalists backed this company (they got $10.5 million right before Apple bought them).
6. Why the code-name of Siri was “HAL.”
7. How Siri is the embodiment of ideas Apple introduced to the world in a video in the 1980s about the Knowledge Navigator.
8. Why Steve Jobs is excited about the artificial intelligence technology inside Siri.

This is the most interesting conversation I’ve had all year, hope you enjoy.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

11 thoughts on “The story behind the 2010 startup success: Siri (why it’s so important to Apple’s future)

  1. Don't forget Google and their Voice Actions App on Android. Remember Siri only does voice actions through data from Signed Partners, whereas Google can eclipse this by plugging into data from all over the web.

  2. we can use the word awesome here in its true meaning – thanks Robert – I can now grok that Apple perhaps are intending to extreme kick ass the semantic web – initially in e-commerce – then drive every content vendor down that road, and perhaps be the new google several years from now …

  3. The whole thing is advertising. Apple will get a piece of every transaction made through here. It will also be able to, as you said, prefer certain vendors (although Apple is usually not willing to do that in a way that reduces customer utility).

  4. If you don't think that advertising, or 'preferred vendors' are going to be woven into this app, you are sorely mistaken.

  5. I published over 4,000 blog posts on niche and specialized search engines at AltSearchEngines, and then I stopped.

    One by one, Siri will learn to search them for me. Oh and Google, I doubt that Siri will click on any ads…

    Ultimately this iPhone that I'm holding will have just one icon on it:

    “Good morning, Charles.” “Good morning Siri, I need…”

  6. Great video and insight Robert! This is why Apple has been so successful lately. It isn’t about specifications, its about solutions. It about how everything works seamlessly together without the user knowing or caring how it works.

  7. Great interview Robert – thanks for the increased professionalism of the video – love your stuff but it can sometimes be painful to watch :) – Not so this time, looking forward to the next part

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