When I met with Google's mobile platform and open source evangelist Vic Gundotra 11 months ago, he mused about how great it would be to speak into his iPhone and get Google search results.
Google programmers have made that possible, adding voice recognition technology to the company's search algorithm to make the iPhone even more appealing, according to the New York Times' John Markoff who wrote (subscriber wall):
"Users.... can place the phone to their ear and ask virtually any question, like "Where's the nearest Starbucks?" or "How tall is Mount Everest?" The sound is converted to a digital file and sent to Google's servers, which try to determine the words spoken and pass them along to the Google search engine."
Apparently, the search results will also sometimes include local information thanks to the iPhone's location-based services. Silicon Alley Insider's Nicholas Carlson yawns at the development here, but I think it's a big deal.
My first reaction to this is: Wow, Google just achieved a significant technology feat and is letting Apple reap the rewards first, with support for other phones later.
Gundotra raved about his iPhone last December, but wouldn't you think there comes a point when Google would be a little selfish and keep such a crown jewel as voice search for its own Android mobile platform? Such a move would surely boost sales of the T-Mobile G1. Ah, but we can debate Google's competitive finesse later. Let's enjoy the achievement first.
According to Markoff, Apple will make the free Google app available today through its iTunes store. As of 8:30 EDT, there is no sign of it on iTunes, but I'm hardly the expert when searching Apple. Neither Greg Sterling nor Matt McGee at SEL could find it either.
The software is flawed, as Markoff said queries can appear as gibberish, but Markoff noted Google executives said they believed it was accurate enough to be useful to people who wanted to avoid tapping out their queries on the iPhone's touch-screen keyboard. Moreover, Google watchers said it won't be a stretch to improve now that Google has built the software.
Of course, because the iPhone doesn't make us lazy enough. :)
Google also told Markoff believes location-based queries would make it possible "to charge higher rates for advertisements from nearby businesses."
Well, Google has been looking for that killer mobile app to monetize. Could voice search be it?