A number of iPhone 4S users recently reported outages in their Siri voice activated personal assistant functions. Cupertino has been officially mum on the situation, but it is obvious that since the data-crunching for Siri’s processing-intensive workings is performed at Apple data centers, the servers may be bottlenecking on too many requests or are allocating too many resources to sort out questions about buying a guitar no strings attached, or whether you can listen to AM radio after noon. The wholesale emigration of many everyday computing services to the cloud seems to have glossed over a critical factor: What happens when the cloud crashes?

Computers & Mobile Devices Are Now Ultra-Thin Clients

In the long ago era when hearty cavemen ate brontosaurus burgers while they typed out business letters on their state of the art 486SX-25s, there was never a question as to where all those keystrokes were being stored. They were ending up on a large floppy floppy disk, a smaller unfloppy floppy disk, or if their IT manager was especially fond of them, their very own internal hard drive. With the advent of the cloud seamlessly interacting with computers and mobile devices, which are now essentially ultra-thin clients, it is next to impossible to determine exactly where that data is. When you upload a photo of your dog with sunglasses over his tail, that file may end up residing exclusively in a data center halfway around the world. If that server dies for whatever reason, your doggy picture will vanish along with all the other data it contained. Unless you have a backup somewhere in your possession, it’s bye bye pup.

Ask a T-Mobile Sidekick User about Cloud Reliability

Amazon, Microsoft Office 365, Google Docs and many other cloud services have suffered outages that have infuriated their users. T-Mobile’s data loss permanently erased the vast majority of the storage of their entire Sidekick customer base in one fell swoop. Therefore, if you want to find out just how secure cloud data is, ask a loyal Sidekick owner.

MobileMe Would Vanish Like a Mischievous Poltergeist

Apple is no stranger to cloud outages, with its pioneering MobileMe service vanishing at will like a mischievous poltergeist. However, all the public hand wringing by frustrated Siri users was essentially incorrect in blaming Apple directly. With server failures, it’s not the singer, it’s the song. Even with the most sophisticated redundant ultra-modern multi-million dollar server technologies, there is always a chance that something will bring the entire system down like a house of cards. It does not seem to matter whether the data center belongs to Apple, Google, Facebook or anyone else.

Batteries Draining, along with Patience

An aspect of iPhone 4S performance that can be blamed squarely on Cupertino’s engineering corps is the enormous variance between the device’s announced battery life and what users are actually experiencing. At launch, Apple claimed up to 8 hours of active talking time or 6 hours of browsing on 3G networks, but in the real world those durations seemed unachievable. It seems that the 4S is excessively transmitting and receiving location information and thus draining the juice on functions that the user is not even aware of. Apple has released an iOS 5.0.1 beta to developers, which is supposed to eliminate this issue, but it begs the issue of how this situation wasn’t spotted before launch. Did anyone actually check 4S’ battery life before composing the marketing hype?