By Jim Karpen on Fri, 03/09/2012
I have to admit that Siri was one of the big reasons that I was going to order the new iPad immediately. Now I'm not so sure I'll get one, given that it doesn't include Siri. Plus, it's a bit thicker and heavier. But it does have Dictation. Unlike Siri, Dictation doesn't let you operate your iPad via voice, nor does it understand natural language. It simply recognizes speech. When you say to Siri, "Do I need an umbrella today?", Siri understands that you're asking about the weather and gives you the answer. If you say the same question to Dictate, it will simply translate your sentence to text. This is called speech recognition. It recognizes the specific words, but unlike Siri, it doesn't understand what you're saying. Still, Dictate is very useful. You simply tap the new Microphone icon that's on the keyboard, and then speak. When you tap Done, the new iPad converts it to text. You can use this new feature to write email, take notes, search the web, etc. It also works with third-party apps so that you can, for example, dictate your updates to Facebook or post your tweets to Twitter.
The big question is why Apple didn't include Siri in the new iPad. Clearly it's powerful enough. I'm guessing it's because of the WiFi-only iPad models. Siri requires an Internet connection to work. The natural language understanding is a very computer-intensive process — one that takes place on Apple's servers. Siri uploads your queries to Apple's servers, the servers parse what you said, and then they send back the results.
Those who bought a WiFi only iPad wouldn't be able to use Siri unless they were near a WiFi hotspot. And perhaps Apple worried that when they got out of range of a WiFi hotspot and Siri no longer worked, they'd think it was broken. And they'd call Apple. Perhaps it was just simpler to have all the iPads work the same, and to have Dictate rather than Siri. But my hope is that Apple will make Siri a download for the new iPad and will simply make it clear whether it will work on your particular model.
An interesting article on iMore that came out in advance of the iPad announcement pointed to additional reasons why Siri would be a challenge for the new iPad. One was simply server load: Siri takes a lot of server power, and Apple's servers might not be able to handle the sudden influx of millions of additional Siri users. Which would be another reason that a separate download would be a solution. You can read the article to see some of the other challenges.
Some people aren't happy that the new iPad will also be thicker and heavier. An interesting article on the NPD DisplaySearch Blog explains why that's the case. The new retina display doubles the pixel density. This, they say, entails a significantly smaller aperture ratio, and a brighter backlight is needed to accommodate this smaller ratio. They say that the new iPad panel probably has at least twice as many LEDs compared to the iPad 2, which has 36. And this results in greater power consumption. So the thicker, heavier case is probably the result of the need for the larger battery to meet the needs of the A5X processor and additional LEDs.
So will I get one? I probably will. I'm addicted to the latest and greatest.