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The only time a connection of any kind was required was if my request spawned a web search or geolocation process, which would be a normal webpage or map loading. I don't see why Apple needs "a huge data center" to handle these requests.
I agree about a lot of "been done before" stuff. Heck, my old Windows Mobile 5.x phone going on 8 years ago was able to use voice to "Play X artist" or "What's my next appointment" (still can't do that on Android),... and WinMo didn't even require a server connection to understand my request.
- "You fell asleep."