After thinking deeper about Apple's new Voice Search Assistant, "Siri", I wanted to reflect a bit about this new "product" from Apple, and pose a question to the community. First, I'll actually throw the question out there, and then share some thoughts and industry reports that just might change your initial answer to the question. Here's the question: "Could Apple's Voice Search Assitsant, "Siri," that recently came with the iPhone 4S, be more significant than we realize, and pose a threat to Android?"
When I first heard about Siri, my initial reaction was, that's pretty cool, but... that's just a more refined version of apps that we already had on the Android. In fact, I even found and shared an interesting story in the news section about a group of guys that were able to create their own weak and slightly broken clone of Siri in about eight hours. Overall, it seemed like, case-closed, time to move on to more interesting Android related stuff, right?
But something kept nagging at the back of my mind. Taking a technological product and making it better, then, even more importantly, marketing it better, has always been Apple's strength. In reality, almost none of Apple's products was an original idea. Their ability to take an existing idea and improve it, then market it in an emotionally satisfying way to consumers is what has made them the powerhouse profit machine that they currently are. Siri, could very well be their next big thing... their next killer app.
From many of the reports I have read, most iPhone 4S using folks that show off Siri, don't really use it to a great degree other than to demo it to others, so it is possible that it could fade away like many "neato whizz-bang" features throughout the history of technology. However, as Siri is improved and people become more emotionally attached to it, that could change, and create an entirely new way to do searches. I mean, if you extrapolate out the potential, it's not too hard to imagine a future where we no longer need to type any searches and instead simply ask our "Jarvis-like" mobile personal super-computer any bit of info we want. Siri, may not have started the idea, but it could be what pushes it into the mainstream.
In fact, apparently, I was not the only one thinking about Siri in these terms. A new report from CNet shares that Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, testified before a senate subcommittee that is investigating Google's dominance in Web search recently. He seems to be drawing the same conclusions that I did and had this to say, "Apple's Siri is a significant development--a voice-activated means of accessing answers through iPhones that demonstrates the innovations in search. Google has many strong competitors and we sometimes fail to anticipate the competitive threat posed by new methods of accessing information."
He further added that some publications have been calling Siri the "entry point" for Apple to get into the search business and become the "Google Killer." Mr. Schmidt further admitted that he was wrong about past statements when he suggested that Apple and Facebook are not strong competitors in the search business. He also said, "The importance of social networking to consumers' online experience has changed remarkably--even over the past year. Consumers are looking for answers when they conduct searches online, and social search has become a serious competitor in helping people find those answers online." Now, obviously some of what he was saying was designed to help bolster Google's defense during the Senate hearings, but that doesn't mean that it isn't valid. It is obviously on his mind so there must be some concern there.
Still, when you break it all down, what we may be seeing is a new evolution in the way we interface with our technology. Although voice recognition is nothing really very new, all the big companies from Microsoft, to Google, to Apple have been working hard to perfect the idea.
In the long run, my answer to my own question is: "It may be more significant that we realized, but it is not necessarily more of a threat to Android." Obviously, Siri could be a new avenue for Apple to compete in the technological marketplace, and not just in mobile devices, but in search engine technology as well. However, we don't really think that Google is going to sit on their hands and do nothing about it, do we? In fact, one could argue that Android is simply another step in the evolution of technology. Ultimately, competition in the marketplace causes technology to evolve faster, and as long as companies stay hungry for our business, then technology will continue to evolve and consumers will win.
Perhaps it is just the eternal optimist in me, but I think that Siri is actually a good thing for consumers and even Google. In the long run it might light a fire under them to make Android, and their other products, even better. Then, pretty soon, we might all be having conversations with our Androids instead of having to type into them.
How would you answer this question?
Source for Eric Schmidt's Statements: CNet