Siri might give Apple a serious lead over Google

Oct 31, 2011
Tech

The addition of the voice-activated personal assistant software known as Siri to the launch of the iPhone 4S gives Apple a big lead over Google’s Android operating system, according to one venture capitalist. Mashable has the story, in which Gary Morgenthaler of Morgenthaler Ventures – a former director of Siri Inc. and something of an […]

The addition of the voice-activated personal assistant software known as Siri to the launch of the iPhone 4S gives Apple a big lead over Google’s Android operating system, according to one venture capitalist.

Mashable has the story, in which Gary Morgenthaler of Morgenthaler Ventures – a former director of Siri Inc. and something of an expert in artificial intelligence – says that Apple now has a two-year lead over Android because of Siri. The voice-activated software, which you can use to ask your phone questions and receive responses and data, or activate various functions like calling people or responding to texts, changes the expectation of what people can do with their phones, Morgenthaler said.

He might not be wrong. The iPhone 4S has drummed up a lot of sales so far, and everyone is particularly impressed with Siri. In fact, it’s probably a fair assessment to say that many of the sales are really about Siri, given that fewer iPhone users might otherwise want to upgrade to the 4S if they already have the iPhone 4. Siri and its possibilities give the iPhone 4S – an incremental upgrade to the iPhone 4 with a better camera and a faster CPU chip, but not a whole lot else in the way of changes – a fresh coat of paint, as it were. It’s also an exclusive function that other iPhones (and Android devices) can’t currently carry.

Morgenthaler points to Siri as having “cracked the code” in allowing users to complete voice-activated functions without having to work extra hard to have the software understand what you’re saying. Siri allows users to speak in plain English, and seems to work a lot better than other voice-activated software, which has always struggled with understanding its users.

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Meanwhile, Morgenthaler says, Google has no way of catching up right now. Siri’s so good at what it does that it’ll take years for the company to replicate the technology on its own, and there’s no company that Google can purchase that will help it bridge the gap more quickly. Apparently, Siri is that far ahead of the competition (though Morgenthaler might be a little biased, given that he was on Siri’s board).

It’s possible we’ll be seeing more of Siri as Apple further develops the technology. Before the Siri company was bought by Apple, it had more than 45 APIs for the software, meaning there are a lot of ways it could be used to integrate with other software and make it more functional.

Morgenthaler even thinks Siri has the capability of rendering Google’s massive search businesses obsolete by providing users with one (or very few) correct answer to a question, rather than pages and pages of search results. If Siri can quickly answer a question with only the most relevant data, it could allow Apple to circumvent Google’s searches, and the ads that Google delivers with them to make its money.

That’s some forward-thinking that’s not going to probably happen anytime soon. But in the meantime, it does seem as though Siri is going to help make Apple’s iOS platform a leader among smartphones even with Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on the horizon. How Apple uses it in the future will determine whether that remains the case once the novelty of Siri starts to wear off.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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