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Apple Threatens To Pull Siri Clone From App Store 251

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the larry-wall-is-full-of-lies dept.
daria42 writes "Steve Jobs might not be around any more to enforce some of Apple's stricter policies, but that doesn't mean the company is letting it all hang loose. Overnight the U.K. company which produces a speech recognition app called Evi, which mimics many of the functions of Apple's Siri, confirmed Apple had approached his company letting it know that Evi was being reviewed for possible breaches of Apple's App Store policies. The reason? A clause in the policy which bans apps too similar to Apple's existing software. It does appear to matter to Apple that Siri doesn't function that well in the U.K., because of a lack of good localisation." Supposedly Evi will be continue to be allowed on iOS if it alters its interface to be dissimilar enough from Siri to placate Apple.
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Apple Threatens To Pull Siri Clone From App Store

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  • by sjwt (161428) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:25AM (#39182945)

    Sounds like its time for an antitrust case to me.

    • by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:32AM (#39182965)

      Sounds like its time for an antitrust case to me.

      Yes,

      But Apple has been pulling competing applications from the app store since it's inception, no alterate email clients, SMS clients, diallers, MP3 players, browsers (proper browsers, not viewers for server generated images or window dressing for the existing rendering engine) and others.

      The question is, why is Apple even threatening? Their normal procedure is to pull the app, remove it from everyone's phone, revoke the developers key and send an iAssassination squad to eliminate the one who dared defy them.

      Has this guy got compromising photos of Tim Cook and Steve Jobs?

      • by BasilBrush (643681) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:12AM (#39183553)

        But Apple has been pulling competing applications from the app store since it's inception, no alterate email clients, SMS clients, diallers, MP3 players,

        That's odd, because you can go to the App Store and find plenty of alternate email clients, diallers, SMS clients, and MP3 players. Plenty that have been there a long time.

        browsers (proper browsers, not viewers for server generated images or window dressing for the existing rendering engine) and others.

        That's the only one in your list that's true. You are allowed to create alternative browsers, and there are many on the App store. But you're not allowed to put your own browser rendering engine on iOS. In part because it would fall foul of the no interpreters with downloadable content rule.

        You are allowed to compete with Apple's own apps on functionality. What you're not allowed to do is to copy the UI of one of Apple's Apps. That's the reason Evi have been asked to change. Because the UI is too much of a Siri copy.

        • by andydread (758754) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @08:10AM (#39184055)

          You are allowed to compete with Apple's own apps on functionality. What you're not allowed to do is to copy the UI of one of Apple's Apps. That's the reason Evi have been asked to change. Because the UI is too much of a Siri copy.

          Yes because only Apple is allowed to shamelessly copy other's work [cultofmac.com]

          • People would have trouble mistaking iBooks for Delicious Library. For one thing they aren't even on the same OS. For another the apps are for entirely different purposes. For another every single thing about the apps is different other than the concept of displaying books on book shelves.

            Had the boot been on the other foot (DL from Apple, iBooks from DM) iBooks wouldn't have been denied from the iOS AppStore.

          • by Deorus (811828)

            You are allowed to compete with Apple's own apps on functionality. What you're not allowed to do is to copy the UI of one of Apple's Apps. That's the reason Evi have been asked to change. Because the UI is too much of a Siri copy.

            Yes because only Apple is allowed to shamelessly copy other's work [cultofmac.com]

            The app in question is in the Mac App Store [apple.com], so the developer has explicitly accepted the same agreement as I have stating that Apple is free to do these things.

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          > That's odd, because you can go to the App Store
          > and find plenty of alternate email clients, diallers,
          > SMS clients

          So where's the one that allows me to clean up ALL my SMS messages with a single button like Android does?

    • by mikael_j (106439) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @04:09AM (#39183109)

      Why would it be time for an antitrust case?

      Apple doesn't have a monopoly on smartphones, software for smartphones or anything really.

      They do however have a product (the iPhone) which is designed to only receive software authorized by Apple (through the App store) but this is not a monopoly, there are plenty of competing products on the market.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Antitrust cases aren't strictly about monopolies, it's about abusing dominance in a market, for example to push into other markets. Market domination has no clear cut definition.

        If, say, one would successfully argue that Apple is dominating in mobile OS market, then using that position to promote Apple's web browser would be illegal.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @05:00AM (#39183319)

          Yes, but to establish market power (not market "domination", which has no definition because it's not a meaningful term), you have to concede that the other smartphone platforms pose no significant competition to Apple. As any Slashdot story or any sales figure would show, that's not the case.

          Apple is an immensely powerful player in the smartphone space, but its ability to cause competitors to act isn't because of market power in the economic and business sense, but instead because of a publicity profile. Apple is the one to beat because of a combination of customer satisfaction, marketing, and industrial engineering and design prowess (and increasingly, technical achievement in certain areas). They're not the ones to beat because of units sold or because they can force competitors to do specifically what Apple wants them to do.

          Their success despite stronghold on platform rules, and especially considering that they are sometimes unevenly applied and result in some functionality gaps with competing products is very strong evidence of competitive success, not interference with the market. These forces would tend to drive customers away toward the fine alternatives available, except that people view the benefits as far outweighing the inconveniences. Report after report shows unparalleled satisfaction and repeat purchases of their mobile devices, along with strong growth over a period of time.

          In short, popularity alone isn't market power in the context of competition law. Customers and developers have plenty of options if they don't like the balance of pros and cons offered by Apple. Just because a huge number of people use something that a small but vocal crowd thinks is unduly restrictive is not an antitrust issue.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by gyaku_zuki (1778282)

            I don't even like Apple, but I agree with everything this dude ^ said. I love my Android, I find it much better than any iOS device, but when so many people buy and don't care about the lock-in and so on, you can't really argue they aren't doing something right.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymus (2267354)

          Every product Apple has created in the last 10 years has been designed specifically to drive sales of their other products, while maintaining a closed, integrated system that can't be broken out of. That is literally Apple's core business model, if you look at anything Steve Jobs has ever said. If they ever actually achieve market dominance in an area, they will be destroyed by anti-trust litigation (or should, but with $80+ billion for lawyers, they're untouchable) because their entire strategy is abusin

          • by Deorus (811828)

            Fortunately, they only care about the high-end, so market dominance is unlikely to ever happen.

          • by BasilBrush (643681) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:16AM (#39183567)

            If they ever actually achieve market dominance in an area, they will be destroyed by anti-trust litigation

            With iPod they had monopoly dominance in the MP3 player market for years. No anti-trust suit. It's not illegal to have a monopoly.

            • by mikael_j (106439) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:24AM (#39183603)

              How did Apple have a monopoly on MP3 players? There were plenty of others on the market although the iPod was the best-selling one.

              And even if they did have a monopoly, in what way did they abuse this monopoly?

              • Um, none of the others could compete on the same level due to Apple locking in very key technology to increasing the storage size of their MP3 players at the time.

                I personally was going to buy one because I could simply drop my entire mp3 collection onto it.

                No more "Aww, I wish I'd loaded song x today"

                However my use case for it was very limited.

                Nothing was available in the way of any serious competition until flash memory advances were made to allow similar storage sizes to the original two versions of the

              • How did Apple have a monopoly on MP3 players? There were plenty of others on the market although the iPod was the best-selling one.

                In a similar way to how Microsoft had a monoploy on PC operating systems when there was Linux and Mac OS around.

                Greater than 90% of the market.

                And even if they did have a monopoly, in what way did they abuse this monopoly?

                They didn't. That's my point.

                • by mikael_j (106439)

                  Greater than 90% of the market.

                  Here in Sweden they had nowhere near 90% of the market (although I do know the iPod was wildly popular in the US).

                  They didn't. That's my point.

                  Sorry, misread your original post.

          • by CrackedButter (646746) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:48AM (#39183705) Homepage Journal

            Really? An "integrated system that can't be broken out of"? You're talking shit on so many levels. As a simple user myself with allusions of being a super user, I can easily transfer everything to another OS tomorrow if I wanted, saying it requires work to do so isn't unfathomable, any switchover will. For those on the hacker level for greater freedom, you can jailbreak and remove drm protections with instructions available online.

        • by toriver (11308)

          What market are you talking about? Apple governs their platform like Sony governs PSN, Microsoft governs the XBox etc.

          And there are plenty of Fandroids who will tell you that Apple is not dominating in the mobile OS market...

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          Apple is taking over the world up until the point someone mentions anti-trust. Then suddenly Apple is not taking over the world anymore.

    • by phayes (202222) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @05:00AM (#39183321) Homepage

      Sounds more like the typical whine of people who, after tens of articles on /. bitching that Apple doesn't allow (apps similar to their OS apps, porn, flagrant ripoffs of existing apps), still don't comprehend that the Apple is not a monopoly & thus App store rules are not abuse of a monopoly.

      If you want different app store rules on your iPhone, jailbeak it. If, as I suspect, you don't event have an iPhone, spare us from your whining...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think there is some confusion about the dictionary definition of monopoly and the legal definition. In the UK, at least, you are deemed to hold a monopoly position within a market if you control more than 25%, which apple certainly does in the smartphone market.

        Also, and I admit it might be a tenuous, you could argue that apps for iOS is a single market, and therefore apple has a 100% monopoly on the supply of apps for iOS, a position that I think most of us agree the abuse to one degree or another.

    • Why should someone be able to clone anyone's software and cause user confusion? From the sounds of it they just don't want it looking the same. I think that's a reasonable request.
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      You don't understand what antitrust means, clearly.

      This may be a stupid policy from Apple, but it's not an antitrust violation since they do not hold a monopoly position in the smartphone market. Well, unless everyone on slashdot has been vastly overstating the market share of Android...

      Either Android is "killing" in marketshare, or Apple has a monopoly and is thus exposed to antitrust. You can't have your cake and eat it.

    • At least, I disagree based on this particular case.

      Apple didn't pull the app immediately, without warning. They contacted the developer and offered to help work with them to make changes so they'd find it acceptable. That's not usually how antitrust situations pan out at all. (Do you remember Microsoft approaching Netscape and saying, "Hey... we're cool with your web browser alternative and we'd even offer it as a download from our own site if you'd work with us to make sure we're satisfied it's not just

  • Oh Apple. (Score:5, Funny)

    by minus9 (106327) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:31AM (#39182963) Homepage
    Don't be Evi.
  • by CyberSnyder (8122) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:37AM (#39182991)

    At least 70% of my attempts to use Evi result in some version of a "unable to process your request" error.

    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:45AM (#39183023)

      I concur. While the text to speech engine and the interpreter seem to work correctly it suffers from a lack of information.

      When I tried saying "What is the weather in Sydney" I got an answer saying that the functionality is coming soon and to try Accuweather instead. Why not just pipe that request to Google and return the text at the top?

      Other classic ones are maths problems. I asked "What is five plus five." It correctly interpreted "5+5?" and then said "This appears to be a maths question, try asking the question in words."
      I eventually beat it by asking "What is the addition of 5 and 5?" and it correctly answered 10.

      Seriously the program has some incredibly fundamental flaws.

      • Why not just pipe that request to Google and return the text at the top?

        I think you should double check Google's terms and conditions for automated access

      • by Phoghat (1288088)

        When I tried saying "What is the weather in Sydney" I got an answer saying that the functionality is coming soon and to try Accuweather instead. Why not just pipe that request to Google and return the text at the top?

        Because Google /= Apple, I.E. Google /= Bing

      • But I was assured by everyone on Slashdot that Siri was trivial to duplicate in its entirety and not remotely challenging, interesting or innovative, and that Android had the exact same (and better) functionality forever anyway.

        So clearly your personal experiences with a competitor to Siri must be wrong. *Ahem*

        Kidding aside, how in the hell did you come up with "What is the addition of 5 and 5?" Seriously - you must be phenomenal at Infocom type "guess the verb" text adventure games because such a phrasing

    • by alienzed (732782)
      Which is horrible if this thing is advertising itself as being 'like' Siri.
    • by Cyko_01 (1092499)
      that was the case when evi was originally slashdotted (SURPRISE) but now it actually works quite reliably; and although it doesn't always directly answer the question it can usually provide a way for you to find the answer quickly
  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:41AM (#39183009)

    I be continue to be horrendously disappoint at Slashdot's lack of editing!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Siri doesn't understand British english? I can understand if it doesn't support german, french and other non-english languages, but doesn't understand different dialects of english seems bad.

    Also, Siri is only on the iPhone 4s, not on any other model so is it really breaching that clause?

    • Re:Wtf? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Captain Hook (923766) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @04:18AM (#39183145)

      Siri doesn't understand British english? I can understand if it doesn't support german, french and other non-english languages, but doesn't understand different dialects of english seems bad.

      If you think about it, it makes sense.

      A different language is a different language and as a result rules must be explicitly programmed for those languages and everyone understands that.

      English sounds English to a human ear, the syntax is based on the same rules but the usage of the language varies a lot around the world. Meaning is coloured by local culture.

      For example, in India, it considered rude to ever say No to a request, so the first response to a request is normally Yes, followed by a qualification. In the UK, that cultural bias to saying No doesn't exist, so when we say Yes, we really mean Yes. The same language, using the same syntax but the important part of the sentence comes in different places because of the local culture.

      The problem is that humans are really good at deciphering meaning from what is effectively errors in the communication protocol and so everyone tends to think English is just English with strange pronunciation and so tend to over look the need for specific rules for each region.

      • by rolfwind (528248)

        I know a lot of immigrants from Europe. Their accents are there but it's not bad, they are completely understandable to the average American. In the past, some of them tried Dragon to poor to mediocre success and Siri is no better, if not worse.

        And Siri should be better, the inquiries are often simple, repeated commands. But Siri doesn't seem to ever learn. It would be so simple to set up profiles to train it to compensate to some degree, but like most computer programs, the human has to conform to it a

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It isn't just accents but word usage. The sentence, "I'm going down to the chemist's to pick up a torch and some fags." has an ENTIRELY different meaning in the UK vs the US.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by netwarerip (2221204)
        This should be easy to resolve, they just need a little table with translations:

        US English -------- British English
        Bathroom ------------ Loo
        TV----------------------- Telly
        Awesome dude! --- Jolly good old chap!
        Greetings, sir ------ ‘Ello Guvna
        Cigarette ------------- Fag
        Horse-faced --------- Female
        Toothbrush ---------- N/A
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QuantumPete (1247776)

        English sounds English to a human ear, the syntax is based on the same rules but the usage of the language varies a lot around the world. Meaning is coloured by local culture.

        Exactly! After all when a bouncer throws you out of a pub in the UK by saying: "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave..." he's neither afraid nor is he asking.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          That's another difference between American English and British English. Here it's "Out. Now. Don't make me kick your ass!"

          In the nicer bars it's simply "OK, you're gonna hafta leave."

          In the ghetto they don't say anything, they just lift you off the floor and throw you out bodily.

    • by Deorus (811828)

      Siri supports US English (speaks in the default female voice everyone as heard), UK English (low pitched male voice), AU English (different female voice, better than the US voice, in my opinion), French (effeminate-sounding male voice, as you would expect from any French guy), and German (the best sounding female voice in my opinion). The localization issues are most likely related to geolocation services not offered outside of the US, such the integration with Maps and search for local services. As I und

      • by rogerz (78608)

        Siri supports US English (speaks in the default female voice everyone as heard), UK English (low pitched male voice), AU English (different female voice, better than the US voice, in my opinion), French (effeminate-sounding male voice, as you would expect from any French guy), and German (the best sounding female voice in my opinion).

        You are confusing synthesis with recognition.

        Siri and Evi both use Nuance's automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology. This technology can support both US and UK English (among many others), depending on which models are used. Presumably, this can be configured by the application software, based on the location of the device and/or user setup (I do not have a smart phone, so I'm not sure if the latter is supported). The Nuance technology also adapts to the user's acoustics and word usage over time, s

  • by Max Rool (552634) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:46AM (#39183031)
    I would like to point out this article http://www.theverge.com/2012/2/27/2828283/sources-apple-not-pulling-evi-app-working-with-developers-to-avoid [theverge.com] which among other things states that "... the app remains in the App Store, and according to sources familiar with the matter, Apple is attempting to work with the developers on bumping out those similarities, rather than just pulling the product." Anyway it seems that Apple may have reconsidered their position on this, which is probably a good thing for the small guys.
    • by gmhowell (26755)

      Anyway it seems that Apple may have reconsidered their position on this, which is probably a good thing for the small guys.

      Or maybe the news reports were incorrect? Or maybe the commenters engaged in knee jerk reactions due to an irrational hatred that is in some yin-yang cosmic balance with the reality distortion field?

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      Oh, thank the gods. Apple is only going to rape them into submission, but not murder them.

    • Anyway it seems that Apple may have reconsidered their position on this

      Pure speculation, and most likely untrue.

      Siri is a huge strategic asset to Apple. They paid $200M to buy the company, and have only just begun to deploy it (what you see today is massively de-featured from what they bought - most of the potential revenue generating interfaces have been removed from it, one can only assume temporarily until referrel fee agreements are in place).

      If Apple thought Evi in any way threatened Siri they'd pull i

  • ...A million similar fart apps is all good though.

  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:59AM (#39183069)

    The only source for this info is the developer itself and they have an obvious reason to put it out there. Not only does it get them PR ("The app so good Apple doesn't want you to have it!") but it may lead to impulse sales since once an app is pulled you get to keep it if you already bought it.

    There is no inkling from Apple. And now the developer is even backing down, so that they have a convenient answer when people ask why their app was never pulled.

    • I never heart of evi, it is a 3 star (fart apps get 5 starts since theydo whtat they are supposed to do ...always...even show fart adds) app on android market. But since it is free, i tried installing it. Now if only it manages to integrate better in the OS....

      (open email/nvaigation for me...)

  • by qxcv (2422318) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @04:10AM (#39183115)

    Steve Jobs might not be around any more to enforce some of Apple's stricter policies, but that doesn't mean the company is letting it all hang loose.

    Because that's the job of a CEO. To take charge of policing their company's third party developer community.
     
    The fact that most CEOs don't get their hands dirty with the day-to-day work of the company is the reason that Microsoft hasn't imploded after years of being headed up by an overweight chimpanzee.

  • misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @04:37AM (#39183221) Homepage Journal

    Supposedly Evi will be continue to be allowed on iOS if it alters its interface to be dissimilar enough from Siri to placate Apple.

    Which is not an entirely unreasonable request. Apple's strength is massively in brand recognition, so making sure your customers aren't confused about what is and what isn't an Apple product makes a lot of sense.

    Plus they didn't just pull it, they apparently told the developers what they were concerned about and asked for their cooperation.

    I fail to see where the news story is in this one.

  • Without Apple, who would be able to point out such clear-cut actual examples of less than desirable side-effects of a tightly controlled environment?

    And mind you, without concrete examples you'd be painted as yet another Richard Stalman if you sketched any potential adverse effects.

    The one thing people have less patience for listening to than actual problems is *potential* problems.

    Apple is providing everyone a service by showing the what the consequences are of having a tightly controlled platform.

    • by Deorus (811828)

      Apple is providing everyone a service by showing the what the consequences are of having a tightly controlled platform.

      Great products that almost everyone wants to have? Half a trillion market cap constantly raising in a recessive economy? Considering the alternatives, I'm perfectly fine with their implementation of a tightly controlled platform, especially considering that for just $100 a year it stops being tightly controlled for me.

    • The supposed positive effects you mention don't exist. If you point out how bad the walled garden is, you STILL get called a nutty RMS fanboy and people STILL don't see a problem with it. If anything they have created fanboys of curated computing that didn't exist before.

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        That might have something to do with the *way* you point out your opinion on the walled garden model, and the subsequent characterisation of those who choose to use it.

        It's rarely an actual debate on /. and more like a vehement stream of abuse directed at Apple, Apple users or anyone who dares to offer constructive criticism of Android.

        Hell, you can't even post a positive comment about Apple on here any more without being accused of being a sock puppet account for a PR agency.

        Debating the actual point rathe

        • FTR, my opinion is that the iOS model should follow something much more like the system Apple are adopting for Mountain Lion (apps from the store signed and launched without user input, apps from elsewhere queried on first launch by admin password) which marries the benefits of both models. What do I know though? I don't make smartphones.

          That would be a massive improvement. I couldn't really complain about iOS if they allowed unsigned apps to be installed out-of-the-box.

          Apple would still be the world's worst patent abuser though and #1 employer of ethically questionable labor.

  • Steve Jobs might not be around any more to enforce some of Apple's stricter policies

    At first I misread that as "...Apple's sphincter policies" and then I decided I was right.

  • Business plan (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rbowen (112459) Works for SourceForge on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @08:05AM (#39184019) Homepage

    I'll bet this threat sells a million copies of the app. I hadn't heard of it yesterday. Now I've bought it. It was only $0.99 How many more of you did that?

    I see a business plan here. What other of the default apps can I copy ...

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