Is Siri An Embarrassment to the Jobs Legacy?

Siri has attracted user unhappiness and lawsuits, inspired Internet mimes and jokes, and no one seems quite sure if this Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) innovation is pure genius or an incomplete experiment. In an interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, who last year published the book Inside Apple, a former Apple insider has said that the iPhone 4S personal assistant would have infuriated company founder Steve Jobs.

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“People are embarrassed by Siri,” the former insider told Lashinsky. “Steve [Jobs] would have lost his mind over Siri.”

Siri was launched along with Apple’s latest iPhone by current chief executive Tim Cook last October. However, in what was a highly unusual move for the company, the software came with a beta tag, basically signaling that it was not a finished product.

Since then, people have found various faults with the Siri software, including inconsistent responses, and lawsuits that argue the personal assistant is harder to use and not as helpful as advertised have come up. Apple has always defended the product by saying it remains a beta release, but that it’s still “cutting edge.”

Lashinsky, who reviews Cook’s first few months in office with his in-depth story, adds that the ultimate “’tell’ of tectonic changes” at the company post-Jobs will come from the quality of its products, and that those who wanted to find deficiencies have found them in Siri. “Siri’s response time has been slow, meaning the servers and software powering it are inadequate,” Lashinsky writes.

While the article also mentions Cook introducing other changes that Jobs may not have approved of, including paying shareholders dividends and buying back stock, it ends with a remark that the new chief’s perception around the company is generally very high.

“For their part, most Apple employees seem more than satisfied with Cook,” he writes. “He often sits down randomly with employees in the cafeteria at lunchtime, whereas Jobs typically dined with design chief Jonathan Ive. It is a small difference that speaks volumes about how employees can expect to interact with their CEO. At Apple, Jobs was simultaneously revered, loved, and feared. Cook clearly is a demanding boss, but he’s not scary.”

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