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Siri speaks, the future is found

Friday, 11 November 2011 — by

Maybe you didn’t notice, but on October the 4th 2011, Apple entered the search engine market with Siri, and from that moment on, casual search will never be the same…

I called Apple’s smooth search move out later in the month, what with everything else going on, I was late to the Siri party:

“You have to wonder how concerned Google are by Siri’s ability to grab the low hanging casual search fruit.”

So how concerned are Google? At the time, they played Siri down, which would be the right thing to do / say, be they concerned or not. After all, do you really expect Google to admit they’re worried about an idea, when such confirmation is as a good as a green light to anyone else with the same idea? Of course not.

Fast forward to a Forbes article quoting Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt’s response to the U.S. Senate antitrust committee, where he (and by extension Google) identify Apple’s voice-activated assistant as a threat to their search products. Why the change? Politics. Google need to appear the wounded party, or how else do they appease the politicians who, on a whim or word, could trim their commercial excess down to size?

But all these things are but a setting of the scene, because the real game changer isn’t Google’s search products, because they’re no longer bathing everyone in the afterglow of innovation. No, everyone expects the all-knowing Google to just keep on being Google.

But the problem is, Google are so tied to their search product, in the same way Microsoft are tethered between the twin pillars of Windows and Office, everything Google do, in so far as search, must be in some way an extension of their paid links franchise, and voice search just isn’t a snug enough fit. Let’s face it, when you’re on the move, who the hell wants to be hearing adverts being barked at them when they’re searching for the nearest Starbucks? That’s the Google dilemma. Apple have no such dilemma.

Trust in Apple technology

Apple like trust. Apple use their vast and ever-expanding walled garden to widen the horizon of their all-enveloping blanket of trust, through vetted applications, which is a fortress to Google’s picket fence approach to application security.

Apple have zero intention of allowing their customers access to untrusted sources via any search they perform via Siri, in so far as finding restaurants, hotels, cinemas, facts, figures et cetera. All of these sources are trusted sources, like WolframAlpha, and Wikipedia for example. Wikipedia, trusted? Do a search for the name of famous person on Google and the chances are you’ll see Wikipedia, or IMDb if they’re an actor, right at the top. That’s the level of trust Google bestow on Wikipedia, so who are Apple to do differently?

So when I say “casual search”, I’m talking about “What’s the weather going to be like later on?”, or “Where is Lake Garda?”, and not “Photos of Lindsay Lohan nude”, or “Cheats for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3″.

Apple are never going to compete with Google’s primary search product. The reason Google succeed is because their product and its agnosticism towards computing platforms; Google search works via the web, not the computer. Apple are for the most part tied to their own hardware, with the exception of Safari, QuitTime and iTunes, for example.

So don’t expect to see Siri appear on Google Android. Why? The deep integration between Siri and the swathe of resources on your iPhone is, most likely, impossible to replicate on Android, or destined to be but a poor imitation.

No, when I look at Siri, I see a proof of concept and a blueprint. I see a product useful for Apple in their desire to keep expanding their walled garden of trust. But I also see a whole population of computer engineers and scientists out there, all bent on replicating Siri and competing head-on with Google.

Apple didn’t change the game, they just helped re-write the rules of engagement. Expect a war of words and a breathless search for the next big thing in finding food, friends, fun and facts on the move…

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