Google could parry Apple's purchase of mobile personal assistant application for the iPhone by buying Vlingo, whose Android application now lets users call out to the Web to find taxis and restaurants with their voices.
When Apple acquired
Siri in April, industry watchers immediately wondered how Google would respond.
a personal assistant application that enables users to speak requests such
as "find me a taxi," or "book me a reservation at a French
restaurant," and have their action items fulfilled.
Siri adds layers of semantic and artificial intelligence
that go beyond what Google currently offers in its search by voice application.
But with more people buying phones based on Google's Android OS, the
logical questions to ask are how and when Google would match Apple's
The when is anyone's guess. The how may lie in Vlingo,
which offers its own applications that blend speech recognition with natural
language processing. Vlingo allows users to speak into their phones to access
contacts in the users' personal address book.
The company has 5 million downloads. More than two million
are on RIM's Blackberry platform, 1.5 million on the iPhone and 1 million on
the Nokia Series 60 platform.
But there are only 50,000 downloads for the young
Android platform to date, Vlingo President and CEO David Grannan told eWEEK.
To fix that, Vlingo has
a SuperDialer feature to its Vlingo for Android app that calls out to the
general Web like Siri does. As with Siri, users may access the SuperDialer by
voice to look for local taxis or pizza restaurants, then call the businesses
with one click.
Grannan said Vlingo will add support for social networks
next month. Expect users to be able to speak into their Android phones, such as
the HTC Evo 4G or new Motorola Droid X and access contacts on Facebook, Twitter
Vlingo is also working on a Vlingo Answers service to
help users speak questions into their Android phone and receive very detailed
This is the type of functionality that would be a no-brainer
for Google's mobile application team to build or buy. Google has both speech
recognition and natural language processing who work on apps such as Google
Voice, Google Translate and, obviously, Search by voice.
Google declined to discuss whether or not it was working
on such technologies or planning to buy them. Grannan acknowledged that Google is
"big enough, smart enough and has plenty of money to expand in this
"It's probably a time to market question,"
Grannan said. "I would assume that in the passage of time that Google
develops tHese things themselves or buy a company like Vlingo."
Google: it's your move.
The market is still
young and voice search hasn't reached the tipping point because carriers
haven't pushed it as a premier user interface over the physical and virtual