Even though Siri is technically still in "beta," its introduction is having a ripple effect on Apple's rivals — namely Google. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google is scrambling to build its own voice assistant for Android devices.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
"Google, meanwhile, has accelerated plans to launch its own Siri competitor that would work on Android-powered devices, people familiar with the matter have said."
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If true, this is a complete reversal from Google's stance back in October when Google's Senior Vice President of Mobile Andy "Father of Android" Rubin said that voice assistants were plain dumb:
"I don't believe your phone should be an assistant. Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn't be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone."
Since Siri's debut, a crop of clones have popped up. Evi is one that comes to mind. Samsung also has its own copycat called "S Voice" that'll be pre-loaded on its upcoming Samsung Galaxy S III Android smartphone. S Voice is, perhaps, the closest alternative to Siri, to date.
It's worth mentioning that voice recognition has been a part of Android for quite some time, but natural voice recognition in the form of a voice assistant isn't a part of Android.
When Siri launched on the iPhone 4S, it's one of the few times I know of -- perhaps the only time -- where Apple shipped a "beta" product to consumers (as it still remains today). But it was a smart move, because it allowed Apple to begin containing Google in search on Apple's own devices. Siri would decide where a search should go, and it didn't always go to Google (side note: Google's deal with Apple clearly didn't anticipate or require Google be the default for voice search, only for Safari search).
That containment wasn't something average consumers widely understood, I'd say. To them, Siri was just some cool new tool that let you ask your iPhone for stuff. It was a subtle way to dump Google without consumers ever realizing that Apple dumped Google.
Siri is a threat to Google's core business: search. That, and Apple can get actors and actresses like Zooey Deschanel and Samuel L. Jackson to advertise Siri as the being the coolest thing ever since sliced bread. Google can't do that if it doesn't have its own Siri.