Friday, May 7, 2010

Apple, Google are playing ‘Star Trek’ with voice control — but with ads

Leaking quietly but with the usual hype once it became public, Apple this week acquired iPhone application-maker Siri, whose key app is a so-called “virtual assistant” that does much of its bidding via voice command. Star Trek communicator anyone?

Gadget blog Gizmodo had some thoughts on the competitive aspects of the acquisition:

Apple hasn’t made any statements about what it’s going to do with Siri, but the answer seems obvious: They’re getting into search. Voice search, to be exact. And in competitive terms, they’re catching up with—and possible even shutting out—one of their biggest competitors. The easiest way to get decent voice search on your iPhone right now is to download an app made by Google; Siri, though good, doesn’t have the kind of visibility that the big G’s app does. Apple can’t be too happy about Google so conspicuously picking up their slack in the voice search space. Hence, Siri, and the deeply attractive possibility of Siri-like search finding its way into iPhone OS, as a native, Voice Control-style feature.

karpinskiiconConnected Planet’s take,
Rich Karpinski:

As a Google Android user myself, I was delighted a few weeks ago when version 2.1 of the core OS finally came to my device, the Motorola Droid. While the animated backgrounds weren’t necessarily for me, adding voice recognition to almost every input area was (especially because the Droid’s keyboards, both software and hardware, aren’t the greatest). I especially enjoy talking out text messages and seeing them appear on screen. My thumbs thank me for that, as well. Overall, I’m a huge fan of voice-based search and still use Goog-411, Google’s dial-up voice recognition search service, whenever I’m stuck with just a feature phone.

The important thing to note, however, is not the input end of any search engine — be it text, voice or even picture-based recognition such as with Google Goggles — but rather the search results or output side. Because that’s where the search provider makes its money.

For Google right now, its Android search results look and feel a lot like its Web search results, with text-based ads popping up alongside mobile search results. What will be interesting to see is how Apple integrates advertising into its mobile search efforts. With Siri, search on the iPhone is app based. Is it a coincidence that Apple also this week started leaking details of iAds, its in-app advertising program, which according to reports will cost marketers a cool $1 million for an entry-level mobile marketing campaign. I think not. Matching Siri and iAds could be a significant mobile monetization engine for Apple.