Is Apple Siri Really a Threat to Google Search?
Remember the good old days, when web search involved typing instead of just asking your phone a verbal question? Kidding aside, verbal search technology like Apple Siri remains a niche solution compared to Google Search. But Google Chairman Eric Schmidt claims Siri is a potential competitive threat. In fact, Schmidt mentioned Siri as evidence to show Google isn’t anti-competitive when it comes to search. But is Siri really the future of search, or is Siri merely a parallel option to the search we all know and love today? Here’s some thoughts…
Ever since Eric Schmidt’s remarks during a Senate hearing, pointing to Apple’s Siri as search competition, the web is buzzing with the idea that Siri could be the next Google killer. Forbes even has a lengthy article on Siri’s power, with a pithy survey showing that iPhone 4S users avoided Google searches thanks to Siri. The author even admitted that he used Siri to look up a good Indian restaurant instead of using Google and then fumbling through reviews on Yelp. Instead, Siri just gave him the best rated Indian restaurant direct from Yelp.
But that’s just it — Siri isn’t replacing search, it’s replacing mundane tedious tasks that shouldn’t take as long as they do. Checking the weather, doing a quick conversion from inches to centimeters, or looking up the nearest movie theater. I can’t help but feel real, intensive search is far from being replaced by a natural language query system. When it comes to searching for specific information, or a proverbial needle in a haystack, Google (and other search engines) offer a plethora of tools, from using quotations for exact matches to searching for articles inside a very specific time-frame.
More importantly, search is important for browsing. Sometimes, you need more than one answer or a conglomeration of information. Siri is designed for quick access to relatively simple information. I wouldn’t use Siri to help me research a term paper or figure out trending topics over the last three weeks. Siri isn’t going to help you browse web videos about Steve Jobs, and it’s certainly not going help you compare and contrast a whole bunch of Indian restaurants, if that’s what you need to do. Siri, right now, runs parallel to search. It’s a new tool. Or put more succinctly: Siri is a new front end on an old-as-the-Internet tool, the search engine.
But could Siri’s natural language recognition evolve to eventually replace traditional search? Apple is definitely on track to create this technology. In the now-famous Apple Knowledge Navigator video, an individual speaks an intensive search task to his Navigator regarding scientific information. Right now, that seems far off, perhaps even as much as 10 years time. And by that point, I’ll be surprised if Google hasn’t developed its own version of Siri (“Andi” anyone?) that will run on Android devices and perhaps replace the Google homepage altogether.
For the meantime, I take Schmidt’s comments with a grain of salt and don’t buy into the Siri vs. Google search hype. There’s a reason the hammer hasn’t changed much over the years, and I can’t help but feel like the search engine will be the hammer of the Internet, for many more years to come.