Like a lot of other people — about 4 million, to be precise — I’ve recently upgraded my mobile phone to an iPhone 4S and started enjoying Siri, the personal assistant that is perhaps the smartphone’s most talked-about new feature. Siri has garnered attention for several reasons, including:
- Siri’s ability to understand and translate natural language into useful responses. Limited commands, such as “Get Weather Report” aren’t required. Instead, Siri does an admirable job of interpreting regular speech, such as, “Is it going to cool off next week?”
- The potential for integrating Siri with a wide array of apps once developers are given greater access to Siri’s API. Imagine being able to use Siri to compose tweets, check in to venues, and buy movie tickets — all through natural language as opposed to a limited set of commands. This will happen, and it will be incredibly powerful.
- The application’s human-like sense of humor, which has spawned websites such as Shit That Siri Says. Apple’s engineers have apparently had a lot of fun enhancing Siri after Apple’s 2010 acquisition of Siri Inc.
Clearly, consumers are captivated not only by Siri’s current capabilities, but also by its potential to tie apps together through voice. And after several days of using Siri, I am too.
But do you know what data point jumps out to me as a far more important fact? The number of times I’ve used Google search since my first use of Siri = Zero.
That’s right. The idea of launching my mobile web browser, typing words into a text box (on a small screen, no less), and clicking a button to initiate a search suddenly feels about as antiquated as file/folder structures do in Microsoft Windows in comparison with touch-based app experiences. Just as Apple took on Microsoft by re-inventing (or at least perfecting) the process for storing and retrieving data, they’re taking on Google by attacking the search giant’s bread and butter. Why type the words “Best Mexican food Phoenix” into a text box when I can simply say, “Siri, I want a burrito?”
A few caveats that favor Android
If a humble end user like me can recognize this potential disruption to Google’s crown jewel, then Larry Page and company almost certainly do. They’ll counterpunch, and in fact, may have an upper hand for a few reasons:
- From a growth perspective, Android is far outpacing the iPhone (which you can learn more about in Mary Meeker’s amazing Presentation on Internet Trends, which I’ve embedded below). This may blunt the impact of Apple’s attack on Google Search.
- Android phones have had solid, if unspectacular, voice-based functionality for years now.
- Competitors (which can be acquired) will undoubtedly emerge to offer a competing level of Artificial Intelligence. For example, Iris (yes, that’s “Siri” spelled backwards) has already sprung up — with similar functionality — as the result of a mere eight-hour hackathon project.
Undoubtedly, however, Apple has changed the future of search with Siri. And if one company has proved that it can re-imagine an existing process, provide a user experience that promotes its rapid adoption, and turn the process into “the new normal,” it’s Apple. Siri is an outright assault on Google’s position as the dominant player in search, and this assault will become even more effective when Siri’s API permits interactivity with popular apps such as Yelp and foursquare.
So sorry Andy Rubin, but you’re wrong.
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