It seems nearly all business and consumer applications are now either cloud-based or soon will be. Stating the obvious, Internet users spend most of their time going Google, Yelp and Facebook for information, updates and searches. The great thing about the open Internet and cloud-based experiences is that you the user gets to choose what service suits you best. But this model has also shifted incredible power to the sites with the most traffic in they sense they are able to monetize their users.
With the announcement of Siri, Apple has changed everything again. They just intermediated the cloud with a curated set of services. Normally providing a subset experience will push users away (see AOL vs Internet) but the hook with Siri could very well be it’s fantastic ease-of-use and natural experience. If you make it easy enough, people will come and happily trade some benefits for ease of use.
Of particular interest is that Andy Rubin, head of Android at Google, claims that Siri is a misguided concept. That he would exempt Android’s voice control system from such an analysis is curious, indeed. But then, Andy Lee, president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone voiced a similar sentiment, although their product boasts a voice interface of sorts, as well. So perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective – or a matter of being terrified of the truth. If Siri takes off it becomes an immediate threat to every entrenched player making loads of cash on search based advertising.
Regardless, assuming it works as promised – and the early results are promising – Siri has changed the game by becoming the central interface point for a curated set of services. Apple has outflanked the competition and become the gateway, by their seamless integration of a conversational voice UX. Furthermore when you look at what Apple is doing with iMessage which further circumvents Carriers, and Friend Tracking, which inserts them into the social space, Apple has quickly moved from being a laggard in cloud and social service to a leader. In short, Apple has strengthened its market position on several fronts, in ways that may afford them an opportunity to snatch the lead from the complacent leaders.
For product developers and service designers this shift is notable in that it could represent a major change in how your service is accessed. I would imagine that eventually some of the Siri APIs are opened up for 3rd party use – or perhaps more ominously – Apple chooses who is in and who is out. Knowing how Apple generally does things, I would assume Siri to be standard across the entire product line within a few years. How do you think this will play out?