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Walt Mossberg Calls Siri 'Too Limited and Unreliable' to Compete in 'Coming AI Wars'

The Verge's Walt Mossberg today wrote a critical article on Apple's Siri personal assistant, exploring the service's shortcomings, mistakes, and inability to answer some simple questions that competing products have no problem with. Entitled, "Why does Siri seem so dumb?", Mossberg's article, covers several questions Siri couldn't answer, ranging from queries about political candidates to the date of the World Series to the weather in Crete. In each instance, Siri failed to provide the desired information, while Google Now, Google's Siri competitor, was able to answer every single question correctly.In recent weeks, on multiple Apple devices, Siri has been unable to tell me the names of the major party candidates for president and vice president of the United States. Or when they were debating. Or when the Emmy awards show was due to be on. Or the date of the World Series. When I asked it "What is the weather on Crete?" it gave me the weather for Crete, Illinois, a small village which -- while I'm sure it's great -- isn't what most people mean when they ask for the weather on Crete, the famous Greek island.According to Mossberg, Apple has fixed many of the above Siri shortcomings thanks to his feedback, and has "stressed" to him that the company is "constantly improving Siri." Apple says it focuses more on tasks like placing phone calls, sending texts, and finding places rather than "long tail" questions, which aren't as popular with iPhone and iPad users. Mossberg speculates that such questions aren't popular anymore because people "just give up" on asking Siri these

iCloud Backups Not as Secure as iOS Devices to Make Restoring Data Easier

Apple's ongoing fight with the FBI over whether the company can be compelled to help the government unlock the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook has brought the full range of Apple's privacy policies into the spotlight. The details surrounding the case have made it clear that while Apple is unable to access information on iOS devices, the same is not true of iCloud backups. Apple can decrypt an iCloud backup and provide the information to authorities when ordered to do so via a warrant, as it did in the San Bernardino case. In a piece posted on The Verge entitled "The iCloud Loophole," Walt Mossberg takes a look at Apple's iCloud backups and explains the reason why iCloud data can't be made as secure as data stored solely on an iPhone or iPad. Apple is able to decrypt "most" of the data included in an iCloud backup, and an Apple official told Mossberg that's because the company views privacy and security issues differently between physical devices that can be lost and iCloud. With iCloud, it needs to be accessible by Apple so it can be used for restoring data.However, in the case of iCloud, while security must also be strong, Apple says it must leave itself the ability to help the user restore their data, since that's a key purpose of the service. This difference also helps dictate Apple's response to law enforcement requests. The company's position is that it will provide whatever relevant information it has to government agencies with proper, legal requests. However, it says, it doesn't have the information needed to open a passcode-protected

Apple Urging Music Labels to Stop Licensing Free Songs on Spotify and YouTube

Apple has been leveraging its power within the music industry in an attempt to push music labels to stop licensing freemium tiers offered by Spotify and other streaming music services, according to The Verge. The company has also reportedly offered to pay YouTube's music licensing fee to Universal Music Group if the label stops allowing its songs on the website, a popular destination for music videos. The report claims that U.S. Department of Justice officials are looking into Apple's business practices in relation to its upcoming streaming music service, expected to be a rebranded version of Beats Music that will debut at WWDC next month. "DOJ officials have already interviewed high-ranking music industry executives about Apple’s business habits," the report claims. Apple's much-rumored Beats streaming service would naturally be a more competitive alternative over two of its biggest rivals in Spotify and YouTube if it successfully convinces music labels to force streaming services to ditch their freemium tiers. Apple's service is expected to have lots of exclusive content, and only about one-quarter of Spotify's 60 million customers have paid subscriptions. Apple faces a similar probe from the European Commission over concerns that it's persuading labels to abandon free, ad-supported services such as Spotify in Europe as well. Apple's own Beats streaming service will reportedly not offer a free tier, requiring customers to pay a recurring fee of around $9.99 per month, similar to paid tiers offered by Spotify, Rdio and Google Play Music. Apple's

iPad App Issue Delays 'a Few Dozen' American Airlines Flights

Issues with an app on iPads provided to pilots on American Airlines flights have delayed "a few dozen" flights, making it difficult for planes to take off and causing them to return to the gates to fix the issue, according to The Verge. An American Airlines pilot's iPad "Some flights are experiencing an issue with a software application on pilot iPads," American Airlines spokesperson Andrea Huguely later told The Verge. "In some cases, the flight has had to return to the gate to access a Wi-Fi connection to fix the issue. We apologize for the inconvenience to our customers. We are working to have them on the way to their destination as soon as possible." Another spokesperson said that the issue affected "a few dozen flights" across the airline. "We've identified the issue, we've identified the solution, and we are working on it right now."Passenger Bill Jacaruso was traveling to Austin from Dallas / Fort Worth when his flight was delayed. He told The Verge that the pilot got on the intercom and told the passengers that his co-pilot's iPad had went blank. About 25 minutes later he got on the intercom again, noting that his iPad had also went blank. At the time, the pilot said that all 737 airplanes were affected, but 45 minutes later he said the issue was affecting "random" American Airline planes. Another passenger told The Verge that "two systems" had failed and needed to be rebooted. American Airlines received FAA approval for iPad use by pilots in the cockpit back in 2011. In 2013, the airline company began giving its pilots Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) containing

Siri Control of HomeKit Devices While On the Go Requires Apple TV as Hub

One of the major focuses at CES this year was home automation, with a number of vendors announcing their plans for devices integrating with Apple's new HomeKit ecosystem. One of the key features of these HomeKit devices has been the ability to control them from iOS devices via Siri, allowing users to turn lights on or off, close garage doors, and more with just their voices. As noted by The Verge, however, users hoping to accomplish such tasks while away from home will need to have an Apple TV on their home network to serve as the hub for these devices.So, while commands like "Siri, turn off the lights in the living room" will always work while connected to your home Wi-Fi network, they won’t from the airport unless you have an Apple TV. But that’s it — you can still switch off the lights with an app, no Apple TV required. This behavior has been confirmed by a source close to HomeKit’s development as well as two launch partners who wish to remain anonymous. Only third-generation or later Apple TVs running software 7.0 or later will support HomeKit.Apple has quietly included HomeKit in the Apple TV's software, but The Verge notes Apple will not be marketing the set-top box specifically as a home automation hub. Many of the home automation vendors have been fairly vague about launch plans for their devices, and sources indicate that uncertainty is due in large part to the need to wait for Apple to finish polishing its HomeKit tools to ensure proper functionality. With HomeKit-enabled chips only recently beginning to ship to vendors and Apple's vendor licensing program

Google Preparing 'Android TV' Set-Top Box with Native Apps, Simple Interface, Voice Search

Google is gearing up to release a new Android TV set-top media box that utilizes a simple card interface with native apps and games, voice search, and a proactive recommendation system, according to new documents obtained by The Verge. The documents note that while Android powers the box's experience, the interface offers a series of "cards" representing different channel options, including movies, shows, apps, and games. Users will be able to scroll through the interface with a four-way directional pad that contains Enter, Home, and Back buttons, with the set-top box reportedly featuring optional game controllers. "Access to content should be simple and magical," reads one Google document, which adds that it should never take more than three clicks or gestures to go from the homescreen to enjoying a new piece of content. Even search appears to be secondary to intuitively understanding what you want and delivering it as soon as possible, though search will be still be one of Android TV's primary tools. In addition to universal search, pressing the Search button on the controller will let you search from within individual apps as well. Moreover, Android TV is said to contain support for voice input, notifications, and search, with the set-top box also being able to recommend content based on a user's interests and resume content viewed elsewhere the moment Android TV is turned on. Google is reportedly asking select developers to create games and apps for its new set-top box with optimized interfaces for the TV, as apps for Vevo, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora are expected

Microsoft OneNote Going Free with Mac Launch Later This Month

Microsoft is working on a version of OneNote for the Mac that will debut later this month, claims The Verge. This release will expand the note-taking software beyond its roots as a paid desktop app for Windows users and will complement the mobile apps that exist on iOS and Android. According to The Verge's report, Microsoft will drop the price on the note-taking app and release it for free to both OS X and Windows owners. The latest version of OneNote also may include companion web-clipper extensions that plug into popular browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. These plug-ins will make it easy for people to grab snippets from web pages and immediately share them with the OneNote app. Microsoft hopes the price drop along with new web-clipping feature will make OneNote attractive to customers who currently use competing note-taking apps such as Evernote. We understand that Microsoft will release the OneNote for Mac app for free, and the company is also planning to make the Windows desktop version available at no extra cost. This marks a significant change in the way Microsoft manages OneNote, unbundling it fully from the cost of Office. We’re told part of this free approach is targeted at competitors like Evernote, but Microsoft is also adding additional features to entice people away from the competition. The launch of OneNote is part of a larger push by Microsoft into the Apple ecosystem. The company is rumored to be working on a new version of Office for the Mac that may debut later this year as well as Office for the iPad that allegedly is coming

Apple's 'iWatch' Said to Run Full iOS, but Battery Life an Issue in Prototypes

Piggybacking on Bloomberg's latest report about Apple's "iWatch" plans, The Verge has weighed in with its own claims about the project. Most notably, the report's sources claim that Apple is planning for the watch to run a "full" version of iOS rather a simpler operating system such as that seen on the iPod nano.Interestingly, we're also told that Apple's chosen to rework the full iOS to run on the watch instead of building up the iPod nano's proprietary touch operating system — although the previous nano was already watch-sized and seemed like a great starting point for a watch, Apple's betting on iOS across product lines.Given the constraints of a watch-sized display, it seems clear that this full version of iOS would still have some limitations in terms of feature support. But a watch-specific version of iOS could make app support more straightforward for both Apple and third-party app developers. Apple's desire for the watch to run iOS is causing the company some difficulties, however, as The Verge reports that prototypes are currently seeing subpar battery life.[T]he goal is to last at least 4-5 days between charges, but the current watch prototypes are apparently only going for a couple days max. We're also told Apple has some work to do with iOS on the iPhone, which currently has several hooks for supporting a watch-like device but lacks the appropriate interface or settings to make it work properly.Rumors of an Apple smart watch have been rapidly gaining steam in recent weeks, suggesting that the company may indeed be moving the project to near the top of its

Microsoft Office for iOS Said to Launch in Early 2013, Offer Only Basic Functionality

There has been a significant amount of discussion about Microsoft's rumored plans to bring Office to iOS devices, and The Verge now weighs in with additional details and a few screenshots from the project. According to the report, Office Mobile for iOS and Android will launch in early 2013 but will not offer anything close a true Office experience, with the editing functionality it does offer coming through an Office 365 subscription.Office Mobile will debut in the form of free apps that allow Android and iOS users to view Microsoft Office documents on the move. Like the existing SkyDrive and OneNote apps, Office Mobile will require a Microsoft account. On first launch, a Microsoft account will provide access to the basic viewing functionality in the apps. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents will all be supported, and edit functionality can be enabled with an Office 365 subscription. Microsoft will allow iOS users to purchase an Office 365 subscription within the app, or let organizations distribute codes to enable Office Mobile editing for users. The apps will allow for basic editing, but we're told this won't go very far in attempting to replace regular full use of a desktop Office version. The report indicates that Office Mobile for iOS is currently planned for launch in late February or early March, with the Android version following several months

Dual-Core A5X iPad 3 Coming Tomorrow with Multiple LTE and 3G Variants?

The Verge reports that Apple's iPad 3 launch tomorrow will see the inclusion of the A5X system-on-a-chip that first surfaced in a photo leak several weeks ago. According to the report, the A5X contains a dual-core application processor as found in the A5, but includes improved graphics capabilities and more RAM than found in the A5. Previously-leaked photo of claimed iPad 3 logic board with A5X chip On the connectivity front, the report claims that Apple will be releasing multiple versions of its cellular-enabled iPad 3 models, with separate LTE models for AT&T and Verizon and a third cellular model for international markets that is limited to 3G GSM and CDMA networks.There have been rumors flying that the iPad 3 would be LTE capable, and we're told that it will definitely be announced for both the Verizon and AT&T networks tomorrow. To be clear, that would mean two distinct, separate versions of the LTE tablet (one for each network). In addition, there's a third international model which does double duty on 3G; a CDMA / GSM model using a similar radio chipset to the iPhone 4S (a Qualcomm Gobi chip). That's a little odd considering LTE chipsets from Qualcomm can be utilized on those same bands, but there may be reasons (cost for instance) that Apple would want to separate the hardware.In line with expectations, The Verge claims that Apple will also be introducing an updated Apple TV tomorrow, packing 1080p video capabilities to be paired with AirPlay streaming and mirroring functionality in the iPad 3 and OS X Mountain

The iPad 3's A6 Processor to be Dual-Core?

TheVerge's Joshua Topolsky summarizes the iPad 3 casing findings reported earlier today, but also adds his own sources regarding some details of the iPad 3. Image from RepairLabs As expected, the iPad 3 will reportedly include a 2048x1536 Retina Display, be nearly identical physically, and use the A6 processor. The A6 processor, however, is claimed to have a dual-core chip, not a quad-core one, at least according to his sources: What is surprising, however, is that our sources say that the A6 will not be a quad-core chip, but will remain dual-core. We've previously had heard that the device would have a quad-core CPU as well as an LTE cell radio on-board, but at least part of that story wasn't accurate.Previous rumors for the iPad 3 have claimed that the A6 processor would include a Quad-Core processor. iOS 5.1 also showed some early evidence of code-support for quad-core processing. While a dual-core A6 is certainly possible, Topolsky's iOS device sources haven't had the greatest track record. In early 2011, his sources claimed that the iPad 2 would include a "super high resolution display" as well as an SD card slot, and a "completely redesigned" iPhone 5 to come in summer 2011. Topolsky did backtrack on those predictions, but not until the week before the iPad 2's launch. Topolsky was also the original source of the the tapered iPhone 5 design and elongated home button. While we do believe that design was