Dictation for the Rest of Us — Built by Apple, Not the Government
For those unfamiliar with speech recognition technology, the last step just noted isn't a joke. Before achieving acceptable accuracy, at least until recently all but the highest-end programs have had to get acclimated to your voice, requiring users to spend time reading "See Spot run" exercises before beginning live use. Although an Apple tech support representative told me that the company has not released any estimates about the accuracy of Mountain Lion's dictation, what I have experienced thus far with absolutely no set-up is at least 95% -- and Apple says "The more you use it, the better it understands you."
To the extent I could verify them (in English only), the claims Apple makes on its information page about dictation appear to be accurate. One reviewer has panned its roughly 30-second limitation on a single dictation stream. Given the ability to almost instantly pause and resume with the Function key, I don't see how that's really a valid complaint.
So how did Apple do this? The "secret" is that the computer which is interpreting and then rendering your speech isn't yours. It's Apple's, reached through Director Al Gore's "invention" (i.e., the Internet, for those who don't remember the 2000 presidential campaign). This means that the company can throw all the processing power required to make its recognition capabilities robust, while still giving users with Macs that are even four or five years old the ability to join in the fun.
As I see it, if you don't have a Mac running Mountain Lion, your computer is seriously out of date.
The company which Steve Jobs built, left involuntarily, returned to save and then transformed has just opened the door to productivity-increasing, life-enhancing, and economy-improving possibilities one can only begin to imagine -- and yes, Apple, while improving on the accumulated technology of predecessor efforts which were never able to make what they had into something the average person can and will use, including on their iPads and soon their iPhones, is the company which built it. Too many big-government advocates who should be thanking God every day for private-industry breakthroughs such as these, including our incumbent President, instead act as if they deserve the credit because many of Apple's employees commute to and from work every day on government roads and transit systems. Give me a break.