I have been fortunate enough to work on a thesis during my college days on the application of AI in aviation which got featured by Aviation Week, the largest magazine on Aviation in the world. So, even though I am not a techie, I have some idea about evolutionary computing.
Babies are cute, stupid and curious in the beginning. They learn new things every day. Over years, they become intelligent. And continue to become more intelligent as they grow old.
Artificial Intelligence is about building systems that can learn on their own, just as us, humans do. By all accounts Siri is a baby, a humble beginning. Nevertheless, it is the closest thing we have available in the consumer market to do what it has been developed for. People often compare it to Google voice which is a *huge* mistake as it is merely a voice command system sans AI.
In my humble opinion, it is myopic to mistake Siri as a failure. With time Siri will grow efficient enough to truly become your personal assistant.
There is a lot of buzz in the media about Google turning into Microsoft. More people are willing to buy this argument because the saying comes from none other than the prophet of the personal computing industry- STEVE JOBS. Only Larry knows the actual context of the conversation and what Steve meant. But the way Steve’s lines are being perceived in the media and spread is TOTALLY WRONG. Google is relevant and growing. It shall be as far as we all can see.
Before I present my argument, let us understand why Google is different from Apple and Microsoft. About the only commonality of Google, Apple and Microsoft is that all of them are giants whose majority of the revenues come from the consumer market. Apart from that, the DNA of Google does not match with Apple’s or Microsoft’s. Google makes product, makes it freely available to the consumers. While Apple and Microsoft make products for consumers to BUY. The financial dynamics of taking a physical product to the market is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from making a free service available online. Hence, Google can afford to be wrong more often than Apple and Microsoft and which is why Google can develop “Labs” and a few other services and then shut them down. What Google builds and shuts down is like, how Steve Jobs would put it, “We do it as a hobby” (Read Apple TV).
It is completely wrong to say that Google is facing a crisis situation as Microsoft is. The problem with Microsoft is that they are in the business of selling operating systems for desktops and laptops. While people would buy both desktops and laptops for probably 5 more years but personal computing is certainly going to be completely disrupted with the proliferation of post-PC devices-an industry where Microsoft has arrived too late. On the other hand, Google sits in a rather pretty position. People now own more devices to consume Google’s ads.
Google earns its revenues from search. Is search going to be disrupted? Hell yeah, even Eric Schmidt thinks so. He thinks that Siri will change the way people search. I agree with him. But what phone do you use? Majority of the people who are reading this blog are going to own an Android phone if they don’t already. Ding Dong. Android’s Google’s. Siri will eat into Google’s search revenues. Sure. But only a little. Majority of the people can’t use Siri because they don’t have an iPhone. They’re gonna have an android. Just as majority of the people own Windows even though Mac is way classier.
Only two things can happen here on. Either Google would make their very own Siri. Or someone else will. Now whoever does, which mobile platform do you think it will be built on? Mango is not even ripe yet. Moreover search is not Microsoft’s primary business.
I bet that Google will have an answer to Apple’s Siri on Android within a year if not sooner. As long as people are going to search or take actions on their personal computers, Google is very much in business. Healthily so.
This is why I feel that Google should be seriously concerned and fear Siri:
Google’s bread and butter is its revenues from advertisements. And they are doing a pretty crappy job. I just now received a wedding invitation to my Gmail account from a long time friend. The wedding is in a city in eastern India. Although most of the times Gmail will just about show you ads that have some relevance, in this case it was perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve seen ever. There were two kinds of ads- real-estate and designer clothes.
Designer clothes is okay. Since it is a wedding, I may be prompted to buy me a handsome looking set of clothes to wear for the wedding. But real-estate? Come on! I am not marrying. If I were perhaps I would be interested in buying a house. Weren’t there so many kinds of ads that could have been served to me?
The wedding is in a different city, I would need to book a flight. I would need a hotel to stay. I would need to buy gifts.
This is where Siri is going to play a major role. Since it is an artificial intelligence
‘do’ engine, in future its going to serve me up with ads/suggestions that I’m more likely to be interested in based on my preferences- flights I usually take, hotel chains I prefer, timings of flight I like etc.
I bet its also going to understand my relationship with the person sending me a wedding invitation and suggest me gifts that I should get and the best deals I can get.
Google, buddy I love you but you gotta do a better job. Ad business is crap, you gotta get into suggestion business.