After being in our new house for just over a week, I was getting around to unpacking my office (only the garage left to do) and as I opened box after box, more wires sprung up. I shook my head and kept piling them away in more areas of the new office. Fast forward to the other morning and I’m reading an article from The Wirecutter posted on The New York Times — a guide to cutting the cord from Cable TV. Another thing I have been working with since moving — for the first time we are going to have two TV areas in the house, should I get two cable boxes? Do I need two cable boxes?
Both seem disparate, but they are connected in the same ways. Both are a continuation of a theme which will be a huge part of technology — and it’s been kicked off in earnest over the past 14 months.
Cutting the cord in simply more ways than one.
What’s the fastest way to send a large file from one device to another? USB Stick used to be the answer, but now it is truthfully AirDrop. It’s fast and it works, friction and wire free.
For all three of my computing devices, the only time they require a cord is to be charged. That only happens at night while I sleep. Effectively I could never have charging cables at my desk and I’d rarely be left wanting.
What’s the best possible way to watch your favorite TV show? Apple TV via an app: Hulu, Netflix, or apps for the particular network who produces the show.
The single biggest point of friction I experience with my day to day use is with headphone cords. I hate them. And wireless headphones are largely shit. Maybe they work, but likely they are simply more trouble than they are worth. AirPods should solve that, but we shall see.
So do I need two cable boxes? No. I barely need one, but it’s a better deal to keep it than it is to get rid of it (so that I can get full access to shows on my Apple TV).
These drawers full of cords, also entirely unneeded. I’ll empty them over time.
It’s an odd shift, and likely one which most Mac/PC users have yet to feel (exception to 12″ MacBook users, which is more iPad like than any other Mac). One of the bigger distinctions between iOS and Mac is the sheer lack of cords needed to be iOS only.
And that trend is only going to accelerate, because cords are a far bigger deal than they are made out to be — than most people realize.
And as our devices move away from having wires touching them, and we move away from cable TV to Apple TVs, there’s another shift. I was led down this path by John Gruber and Walt Mossberg (Gruber has a great synopsis of it here) talking about how Siri is just not valuable yet. The point being that as an assistant Siri basically sucks.
But I argue that’s only if you think of Siri as an assistant — if you think of Siri as an amazing tool, it’s quite powerful. This entire article has been about friction: friction of cords on your devices, the friction of cable TV and now the friction of voice control.
Cutting the cord between you and your devices, is removing the need to physically touch your devices. “Hey, Siri…” do these things for me.
Gruber talked about looking up trivial information with Siri, and then acting upon that information. The former worked, the latter didn’t. That sucks, yes, but it’s also pretty amazing that the first part works so well and so much faster than any human could do it.
However, looking up trivia with Siri is mostly just fun — the real power is in asking Siri to do something for you. What’s the fastest way to tell your wife you are on your way home?
But what’s the fastest way to send that text?
Siri, on the Apple Watch. Raise your wrist and say: “Hey Siri, tell my wife I am on my way home.” Lower my wrist, because I am now done.
Not only is that much faster than me doing it manually on my iPhone — even if I was already using my iPhone — but there was no friction to it. It was a one line statement which requires no button presses or confirmations.
That’s the thing about all of this stuff: it’s not perfect but it is so much easier on a whole that I love it all. Having iOS send messages for me is faster than even a human assistant can do. Sure, asking Siri to chain together a string of queries doesn’t work so well, but eventually it will. (So too is having less cords and ports as it can be a pain in the ass, but most of the time it’s just far better.) That’s not to excuse Siri for not keeping up, but that’s also why other options exist.
Using my Apple TV can really suck when I have to figure out where I can watch a particular show, but then again it’s far and away better than remembering the specific time that show airs on TV. And I can also ask Siri, who finds it fast for me.
I don’t have a personal assistant — never have — so for me Siri not being good at being an assistant is no loss to me. I do however send a lot of text around, and Siri makes that far easier. I’ve had Mac Pros, and my iPads make my life a lot easier instead of those beasts. And you know what I’d rather do than call fucking Comcast to get another cable box? Buy another Apple TV and set that up and deal with the limitations of it.
Siri is a poor replacement for a human assistant, but Siri can do an immense amount of things which no human assistant can do. I just looked in my travel kit and there’s only one wire I actually need to ever take with me on any trip: Lightning cable. Think about that for a minute, because we’ve come a long way on that in a very short amount of time.