Belfast Telegraph

So, will this new phone finally tell us who Steve Jobs really was?

By Nuala McKeever

I’ve never owned an Apple Mac nor an iPod, iPhone, nor iPad 1 or 2. I know lots of people who use them and I’ve enjoyed playing with them myself at times.

But that slight interaction with the hardware can’t really explain why my software was so touched by the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

He died young — true. He was a great dreamer, visionary and leader — true. His work impacted upon and improved the lives of millions — true.

But I think it was his appearance, his demeanour, that impressed me so much. I can’t remember when I first became aware of him — probably when his gaunt appearance at the launch of a new product led to to speculation about his health.

He had had pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant. He went back to work.

He got ill again, stepped down from work, resigned as CEO and finally, as the company was launching the iPhone 4S, he died.

He was a private person, never given to talking about his personal life in public.

So most people didn’t really know him at all and yet millions have poured out their grief at his death. It’s been said by commentators and a biographer, that people ‘loved’ him so much because they knew so little.

He was a blank canvas upon which they could project whatever image of him they chose.

In a strange irony, the new iPhone 4S offers an advancement in technology that will do the exact opposite of what Steve Jobs did in real life.

This new hand-held computer (it’s daft to keep calling these things ‘phones’ — phoning is a small fraction of what they do.

It’s like calling a 20-bed mansion with its own gym, pool, cinema and bowling alley a ‘shelter’) offers voice interaction on a scale not heard before.

Siri is the name of the new feature.

You say to your phone “Remind me to call Dad on his birthday” and it’ll send you a reminder, “Call Dad on May 19”, or “Let my wife know I’ll be half an hour late” and it texts your wife to tell her just that. Wow! If it works as easily as the demo video shows it working, it’s amazing.

But, the bit that I think may prove a downfall, is that, not only does Siri take orders and understand your voice, it talks back, asking you questions to clarify what you mean.

The company blurb states proudly that Siri “will keep asking you questions ‘til it finds out exactly what you want”.

Hold on a minute but isn’t that exactly the sort of behaviour that causes the breakdown of most relationships between couples.

Usually, (and I know this is a generalisation) it has to be said it’s the woman who “keeps asking questions”.

And, usually, it’s the man who has to be asked repeatedly, ‘cos he doesn’t see the need to give decent answers first, or third, time round.

People love their gadgets and their pets and rarely get divorced from either precisely because they don’t talk back!

Steve Jobs stuck to talking to people about Apple products. He didn’t get into two-ways about himself.

He kept the mystique alive. It’ll be interesting to see if Siri fares well or ends up sleeping at its mothers after one question too many

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