Google 'Majel' May Answer Apple Siri

Apple’s Siri voice assistant software has spurred Google to tack natural language processing onto its Voice Actions voice command application, a project code-named “Majel.

Count industry analyst Jack Gold as one of the believers in credible Siri alternatives said :

“Natural language front ends to search engines have been on the agenda for several years. It’s just that they are not always easy to do, nor do users take to them easily as voice input has very many variables that make it work well or not so well based on particular circumstances.

“And phone front ends were not always adequate to the task for audio quality necessary to make it a good experience. Siri broke new ground and therefore there is now new momentum. But I would not assume that Apple has technology in Siri that can’t be (or hasn’t already been) duplicated or even exceeded.”

Gold expects Siri-like answers from not only Google but Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bing, which is already dabbling in this with its automotive applications for Ford’s Sync navigation software. And, of course, don’t count out Nuance Communications, which enables natural language processing for Siri and has significant capabilities.

“But at the end of the day, users will only use the technology if it works well and meets their needs, once they get over the ‘cool’ factor,” Gold added. “We’ll have to see how this plays out longer term. I don’t expect keyboards to be eliminated from search anytime soon.”

Technology Business Research analyst Ezra Gottheil sees Siri as more transformative than other analysts. Gottheil believes it will spur other vendors to rush more Siri-like interfaces to PCs, Websites, and other devices like cars and TVs.

Still, he acknowledged as fair criticism that Siri is limited in scope and language—only three English dialects plus French and German—not to mention the bugs the befall every challenging new technology.

“Apple will, of course, improve it, but more important, users will learn how to use it, and when to use other user interface tools,” Gottheil wrote in a research note Dec. 16. “Apple’s efforts, including the product itself, its humorous responses, and aggressive marketing, have encouraged users to try it. We believe Apple has pushed the interface past the tipping point, where users will keep using it and refine their skills, while Apple improves and expands it. ”

You can bet Google, Microsoft and others will follow Apple’s lead.

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