Siri, Why Should Google and Microsoft Fear You?

Funny, I had an article entitled "what happened to speech recognition?" in the works, which I started before the launch of the iPhone 4S.

I've been involved in speech recognition technologies for the greater part of the last 20 years - and despite the never-ending slew of technological advances, while speech remains the fundamental means of communicating with each other as humans, it still hasn't taken off as the means of communicating with machines.

It's quite hard to put a finger on exactly why, in the sense that there's no single obvious reason; mainly it's a complex recipe of issues involving over-expectation and under-performance, not to mention the relevance of the alternatives.

Could that be set to change? It looks disctinctly possible - It won't happen overnight, but Apple has a track record of generating the momentum for technology adoption, even where the technology is not necessarily entirely new (mp3 players and tablets immediately spring to mind). Here are some interesting views on the topic...


As I watched The Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital Asia interview with Android’s Andy Rubin, I was highly intrigued by his comments about Apple’s Siri. Rubin told Walt Mossberg, "I don't believe your phone should be an assistant." He said, "Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn't be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone."

Furthermore, when questioned about Siri, Microsoft’s Andy Lees said it "isn't super useful." At the same time, he noted that Windows Phone 7 has a degree of voice interactivity in the way it connects to Bing. Thus, it harnesses "the full power of the internet, rather than a certain subset."

What are these two guys smoking? They both seem to ignore the fact that Apple has just introduced voice as a major user interface. Its use of voice, coupled with AI on a consumer product like the Apple iPhone, is going to change the way consumers think about man-machine interfaces in the future.

But I think their responses were rooted in jealously and the fact that, based on what it will soon become, Siri will ultimately threaten their businesses.


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