Google Assistant, Majel Rumor Par for the Course

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2012-03-06

Far be it for me to throw cold water on the prospect of exciting new software from Google, but the Google-is-building-a-Siri-rival meme is wearing thin on me.

I noted last year how the smart speech-recognition service would be called Majel. Now TechCrunch says that name has changed to, simply, Google Assistant. Check out these other bullet points from the report, which said Assistant's goal is to:

  • Get the world's knowledge into a format a computer can understand.
  • Create a personalization layer: Experiments like Google +1 and Google+ are Google's way of gathering data on precisely how people interact with content.
  • Build a mobile, voice-centered "do engine" ('Assistant') that's less about returning search results and more about accomplishing real-life goals.

This doesn't tell us beyond what we already knew, guessed or expected. In fact, TechCrunch's reporting reads like a bullet-point list of something public relations people would leak to a favored publication. That's a fact.

Also a fact is that Apple's iPad 3, iPad HD, or whatever it's name is, is set to be unveiled March 7. The new iPad may be Siri-enabled. We may also hear about a Siri-laced Apple TV.

It's only good and well that Google's PR team would launch a preemptive strike to avoid another bad glut of press about how much better Siri is than Google Voice Actions -- despite these tests by Motorola.

If you want to read a great take on this competitive positioning, see this Search Engine Land piece from Monday:

If Google manages to build an effective assistant, which it's certainly capable of, it will need to balance its delivery of "answers" or trans-actionable responses (e.g., the OpenTable scenario) with its continuing need to monetize mobile. Marginalization of the SERP will potentially diminish Google's mobile revenues, which the company does not want and cannot afford to do.

Accordingly, it must balance the "answers not links" mobile imperative with the need to protect and grow mobile search-ad revenues. In this way Google confronts its own version of the "innovators dilemma."

Indeed, it's not about Google's new offering besting Siri in an Android phone voice-off, if you will. It's a matter of Google providing actionable but personal (through Alfred technology) speech assistance without cutting into its mobile search sales.

I would think Google could pair speech recognition with voice-based ads as a new ad revenue stream, but haven't seen it yet.

The stakes are high at a time Google's mobile ad business appears poised to grow 80 percent to $4.5 billion this year.

On a personal note, I'd much rather Google create something unique rather than just a me-too to Siri.

Google likes to position Google+ as unique to Facebook, but at the end of the day, it's another garden with walls where people can share content.

Can Google Assistant offer the mobile market something unique?

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