Assistant could be based on your phone, but it should be omnipresent.

Last week, during Apple quarterly earnings call Goldman Sachs Analyst, Simona Jankowski asked: “How important it is to have a dedicated home assistant versus just having the phone as the home assistant?”. Apple CEO, Tim Cook answered:

I think that most people would like an assistant with them all the time. And, y’know, we live in a mobile society. People are constantly moving from home to work and to other things that they may be doing, and so the advantage of having an assistant on your phone is that it’s with you all the time.
That doesn’t say that there’s not a nice market for a home one; I’m not making that point. I’m just saying that on a balance point of view, I think the usage of one on the phone will likely be much greater.

I think that his first point that most people would like an assistant with them all the time is extremely valid. However, Tim’s next point makes me wonder if Apple clearly understands a very important distinction between a place where assistant software lives and interface that people use to interact with the assistant.

Assistant’s interface should minimize friction involved in making a request. It should take into account both physical actions and mental work required to get things done. While your phone is near you at any given point of time, saying something to your phone is not the best interface to the assistant in some of the cases.

Let’s consider very common scenario for every Amazon Echo owner, you lay in a bed in the morning and you want to listen to some good music to help you get up easier. What you do is: “Alexa, play some music”. And then the magic happens. Consider using iPhone in the same situation: you should find your phone, hopefully it’s near your bed, take it and then say “Hey Siri, please play some music”. The second scenario obviously takes more efforts.

More than than, I’d say that in every case where you have a microphone/speaker system similar to Amazon Echo in a room, saying what you want it to do — is a better experience. It is always superior to taking phone out of the pocket and talking to it. It feels silly, takes more mental and physical work, and clearly provides worse user experience.

Let’s talk about the case where you don’t have an option to talk, either to your phone or to your Echo. In that case text based chat interface could be exactly what you need to tell an assistant its next assignment.

My main point is that AI assistant should be available via any interface appropriate or comfortable in any given situation, be it home, car or your office. You should be able to issue commands via your phone, Echo like device, text based chat, even email if you prefer it that way! And it’s very strange to see that only Google not Apple fully understands this fact.

So yes, a “phone” is one of the valid answers to the question “where AI assistant software can be located” with “cloud” being another possible answer. However, for question “how do you interact with the AI assistant?” the answer should be “any way you want”.