Google Asks Search Users to Speak Up
Google has been offering voice search for some time already through its Google Now service, but now -- in a clear challenge to Apple's Siri -- it's bringing expanded capabilities to Google Search as well, allowing people to search for information using spoken questions. "Voice search is a significant point of competition for Google," noted Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
Google is making a major push into voice search with the rollout of several new capabilities, the company announced on Wednesday.
Specifically, over the coming days and weeks, English-speaking users with voice search on desktops, tablets and smartphones will be able to ask Google such common queries as, "is my flight on time?" or "let me see my reservations" and get answers instantly in Google Search if it's in their Gmail, Google Calendar or Google+.
People can ask their devices, "what are my plans for tomorrow?" for example, as well as get status updates and other information about their recent purchases. They can also ask Google to show them photos they have uploaded to Google+.
This functionality is not entirely new for Google -- it has, in fact, been offering it for more than a year in Google Now. What is new is its availability in search as well.
"This information is just for you -- secure, via encrypted connection, and visible only to you when you're signed in to Google," noted Google Product Manager Roy Livne. "Likewise, you can also control whether you want the service on or off."
Taking on Siri
There are a few trends of note in this development. One is Google's relentless push to tie all of its products together in myriad ways. This new voice functionality works on other products that Google hopes to see searchers use more of, such as Google+.
The most noteworthy takeway, however, is Google's clear intent to match and even top Apple's Siri -- a feature that introduced voice search into the mainstream.
While this particular iteration of Google's voice search may not yet match Siri's prowess, Google will no doubt continue to build on what it can do.
"Voice search is a significant point of competition for Google," Charles King, principal of Pund-IT, told TechNewsWorld.
The move is also an important marker for Google, which has been struggling to undo the perception that Android is a less innovative platform than iOS is, King said.
"For a long time not only were Apple and the iPhone essentially unchallenged, but there was an assumption by many people that Android was forever going to be lagging behind in terms of updates and features," King said.
This has started to change over the past 12 to 18 months, King noted. "I think we have reached the point where Apple, once the de facto market standard, is being pushed further and further into a premium niche," he explained.
By spreading Google voice capabilities across more and more of its applications, King continued, "Google is effectively undermining the primary points of differentiation that Apple has sketched out for itself."