Henry Blodget is convinced that Apple’s iPhone-based voice recognition tool, Siri, poses absolutely no threat to Google search. He’s even more certain than Google’s own Eric Schmidt. How is he so certain? Let’s analyze excerpts from his article to find out, shall we?
“I don’t even have an iPhone 4S yet, but I’m still ready to call BS on this one.”
Okay, we’re off to a good start. He doesn’t own a 4S and, as you’ll read later, he hasn’t used Siri either, but don’t let that prevent you from making a grand proclamation!
“With the exception of a few very limited circumstances, using Google’s search interface is vastly more convenient, precise, and helpful than using voice commands.”
Yeah, this whole “talking” thing is vastly overrated. I mean, why press a button and say, “Find me some Mexican restaurants,” when you can launch your web browser, put your cursor in the text field, type your question with your thumbs, and wait for those accurate results to pour in. Make sure to enter your ZIP code, kids!
“Unless you are walking or driving at the exact moment that you conduct your search, it is much easier to punch a few characters into the search window and then look at a full page of results than it is to try to verbally ask your phone to conduct the search for you.”
Good thing people don’t search for things while they’re “walking or driving” then. (Aside to aspiring tech journalists: if you want to sound like you get the ‘lingo,’ use phrases like ‘search window.’)
“For many people, it actually takes more effort to speak clearly and precisely than it does to type a few characters.”
Indeed. I would go so far as to say that it actually takes more effort to write a clear and precise tech analysis than to type a few characters.
“To get Siri to work properly, you have to spend time thinking of what and how to ask—more time than it takes to type a few characters into Google Instant.”
Good thing most of us never “spend time thinking of what and how to ask” Google before conducting our search. Seriously, typing “Mexican restaurants 10010″ is not any easier than saying, “Find me a Mexican restaurant” or “Mexican food near me” or “Get me Mexican food.”
“Siri often doesn’t understand exactly what you want, which leads to immediate frustration in a way that using Google does not.”
This is true. Google provides its frustration when you get meaningless, impersonal, irrelevant results.
“Any time you are in the presence of other people—in the office, on a train, on the street, in a restaurant, at a meal—talking to your phone is rude, inappropriate, or alienating in a way that typing a few keys is not.”
I’m glad I don’t sit near Henry Blodget at work. Can you imagine me calling a friend for information? “Hey, Alex, what’s the name of the restaurant where we’re meeting tonight?” “Keep it down over there, you ill-mannered beast! I’m writing an article about a device I’ve never used, and you’re prattling is making it hard for me to concentrate.”
“And then of course there’s the other obvious point, which is that Google also has a voice interface. If searching by voice does, by some miracle, become immensely popular, Google will be there, too. But I doubt it will.”
So he hasn’t used Google voice either? That’s probably why he’s able to leap to the conclusion that it understands natural language like Siri, and doesn’t require the user to memorize rote commands.
“Although Siri looks like a fun toy to play with, and does seem useful when driving or setting reminders, I have no interest in using it for search.”
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, he HAS NO INTEREST IN USING SOMETHING HE HAS NO INTEREST IN USING. Doing so, after all, might cloud his judgment.
“To make sure I’m not just in some fuddy-duddy minority, though, I just asked the newsroom how many folks with 4Ss use Siri to search.”
Another note to aspiring journalists: never go outside your newsroom to do research; it’s time-consuming and you might encounter opinions that differ from your own.
Of the one person he works with who uses Siri for search: “I sit near Ellis all day in the office, though, and I have never once heard him use Siri to search for anything.”
Another nugget for aspiring journalists: an excellent method for gathering user insights is to eavesdrop on your coworkers. I can hear it now: “My colleague, Mr. McWatters, will occasionally laugh at things he sees on YouTube, which convinces me there is humor to be found when using one’s search window.”
“Entertainment guru Dana Eisenberg, meanwhile, says she never uses Siri for anything, because Siri never understands her.”
Those hundreds of thousands (or millions?) of people using Siri every day? They’re just babbling away at a device that has absolutely no idea what they’re saying. It’s like they’re suffering mass delusion.
“So go ahead and dream about Apple disrupting Google with Siri, folks. But it just ain’t going to happen.”
Duly noted. We’ll check back in, say, a year?
In the meantime, last night I showed Siri to my wife for all of two minutes, and her response to me? “So I don’t have to use search anymore?” Ding ding ding.
Note: I wanted to test Blodget’s theory that Siri is vastly inferior in terms of efficiency. I turned on my iPhone, launched Safari browser, positioned my cursor in the search field, typed ‘Henry Blodget’ and waited for the results: 18 seconds. Next, I hit the home (Siri) button, said, “Search the Web for ‘Henry Blodget,’” and lo and behold the same set of search results appeared in just 9 seconds. But what do I know? I’m not a journalist.