In brief: Siri may be popular with millions of iPhone users from around the world, but not everybody at Apple is impressed with the voice assistant. That's according to a bombshell new report from The Information, which claims that some Apple engineers working on the company's upcoming Reality Pro headset are so unhappy with the software that they considered creating their own alternative to control the mixed reality device.

The publication spoke to more than three dozen former Apple employees (via MacRumors) who claimed that Siri was 'widely derided' within the company as it lacked critical functionality expected from a modern voice assistant. The problems, they claimed, stemmed from Apple's stifling emphasis on privacy and perfectness, which led to virtual turf wars and 'heated arguments' between various senior leaders over the direction of Apple's virtual assistant.

Thanks to Apple's strict stance on privacy, the engineers were prevented from building analytical tools for Siri, which forced them to work without any usage metrics for the voice assistant. Whatever data was collected by the data science and engineering team was never used for improving Siri, leading some employees to dismiss the process as "a waste of time and money."

Instead of using AI to fetch conversational-style answers from the web like ChatGPT, Apple executives, including CEO Tim Cook, wanted Siri to respond with a series of pre-written answers to prevent off-the-rails responses that could be a source of embarrassment for the company. This stymied the growth of the software and prevented it competing on even terms with Google Assistant and Alexa, leading to widespread discontent within the company's rank and file.

The report also describes how Apple engineers in 2019 started a project called 'Blackbird' to replace Siri, but despite initial promise, it was eventually abandoned in favor of a competing project called 'Siri X' that simply aimed to move all of Siri's functions to be processed on-device rather than in the cloud. It did not, however, have any of the advanced functionality of Blackbird, which is said to have been more functional and responsive than Siri, and also impressed Apple executives who were privy to the demos.

Apple's conservative approach to AI left its engineers disillusioned, and many of them left the company to join rivals like Google to work on large language models, despite a personal appeal by Cook to stay on. Three Siri engineers who left Apple for Google following the disputes include Srinivasan Venkatachary, Steven Baker, and Anand Shukla, all of whom joined the Cupertino company in 2019 when it acquired their startup LaserLike.