Voice recognition is the new battle ground for rivals Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Apple’s Siri is leading the pack. “All the mobile phone manufacturers are investing in speech, expanding investments in speech, creating more elegant designs and integrating it more deeply into phones,” said Michael Thompson, senior vice president for mobile at voice-recognition specialist Nuance. What is at stake? Online search that generates advertising revenue.
The following excerpt from an MSN Money article tells the compelling story: “Siri’s tantalizing features include the ability to take dictation for text messages, set reminders, initiate calls and get weather updates — all at a mere voice command. Such an interactive voice-driven interface encourages greater use of smartphone features by making it much easier to access technology-on-the-go. According to a recent industry study by Arieso, the iPhone 4S has almost doubled data consumption as compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 4, and the introduction of Siri is considered to have enabled the huge growth. One of the most important smartphone features that Siri is driving is an increase in mobile search.“
“As smartphones become ubiquitous, more searches are going to be performed on mobile phones and voice-recognition technology could be at the forefront of this change. Google has been trying to increase its presence in the mobile search market through Android and will want to come up with a more interactive voice-recognition engine than its Google Voice Search or the Voice Actions feature that comes integrated with Android. The same applies to Microsoft, which has its own TellMe software that redirects all voice queries to Bing Search for Windows Phone.”
The article continues: “Siri’s success, due to its natural language understanding skills, poses interesting questions for Google and Microsoft’s search business as voice search could replace text search in the future. Right now, Apple uses Google and Bing as a last resort to redirect some of its search queries only after it has exhausted its own database, as well as those of partners Yelp and Wolfram Alpha. If Siri becomes more widely used and Apple seeks to bring more partner databases into the fold, Google and Bing search could be pushed further into the background — or at least slowed.”
What are competitors doing? “Google and Microsoft will therefore redouble efforts to integrate natural language processing skills into their existing voice recognition software, else they risk losing major traffic and therefore major ad revenue as well. Google’s mobile search division contributes more than 32% of its stock value, as per our estimates, and it clearly has the most to lose from this scenario. The company is apparently readying a Siri-like interface in a project code-named Majel that will be added to its Voice Actions feature on Android, in order to counter Apple’s advances.”