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Apple Acquires Voice-Activated Search Application

Apple took another step forward into the search market this week by with its acquisition [1] of Siri, a mobile assistant company known for its virtual personal assistant app. Siri  Assistant has been part of the iPhone app family for awhile, but it is believed that Apple’s acquisition of the makers of this software gives the company even more ammo in its ongoing competition with  Google to dominate mobile advertising. Terms of the deal have been disclosed.

Siri  Assistant is a personal assistant application that takes spoken requests from the user—from searching for a restaurant in the neighborhood to finding out the next movie time—and fetches the appropriate results, similar to a search engine query. Siri’s voice-recognition feature first converts the request into text (the inquiry can be in written form as well). Then, the app taps into APIs across the Web to bring back results and/or recommendations.  It can even take this process a step further and reserve a taxi or purchase the movie ticket at the user’s command. Siri’s performance depends heavily on its partners such as WeatherBug, Yelp, MovieTickets.com, Taxi Magic, and Eventful. From Siri’s website [2]:

“Siri works with leading web service providers to deliver answers and actions from trusted brands. For example, when users ask Siri to book a table for two, we partner with OpenTable, the leading restaurant reservation site, to fulfill restaurant reservations. Or, when users ask Siri to call a cab, we work with Taxi Magic, the leading taxi reservation service, to dispatch taxis.”

In essence, Siri’s functionality is simple voice-based search. However, it caters to the iPhone users on-the-go who are looking for immediate and manageable results, not a long list of websites that may not even be in the correct format to be viewed on a mobile device. It also utilizes the iPhone’s GPS feature to produce results that are relevant to the user at that particular time and place. If everything runs smoothly, Siri provides a much easier way to navigate on mobile devices than the traditional mobile search query via Google and Bing. Customer reviews [3] of Siri Assistant reveal that the app can free users from thinking about which particular app to pull up to find certain information, because Siri can pool them all into one. We can only speculate how effective this new acquired technology will be for Apple’s business strategy, but it certainly holds the potential to change the mobile search landscacpe.

About Grace Kobayashi

Grace Kobayashi is a graduate student at the University of Southern California in the Master’s in Human Behavior program She was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and after graduating from high school, moved to Tokyo to do her undergraduate studies at Waseda University. She is working as an intern for the Client Services team at The Search Agency.