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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Android Boss Knocks Siri

People seem to think that Apple's new voice-activated personal assistant, Siri, is pretty cool. But not Andy Rubin, the Senior Vice President of Google's Mobile division.

Nope, the head of Android told AllThingsD at AsiaD that your phone shouldn't be a companion--it should be a tool for communicating with real companions.

"I don't believe your phone should be an assistant," Rubin said Wednesday. "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."

That's an interesting though, considering Google is about to launch Android 4.0, dubbed "Ice Cream Sandwich," which has many new features and improvements--including a much-improved voice input engine.

To Rubin's credit, he's not totally hating on Siri--he's just not sure that people want to talk to their phones.

"To some degree it is natural for you to talk to your phone," Rubin said, but he's just not sure that people will want to talk to their phones if they're not actually talking to another person. Still, he said that "we'll see how pervasive it gets."

He also said that, while he doesn't think talking to your phone will catch on (though 4 million people beg to differ), he does think Apple "did a good job of figuring out when the technology was ready to be consumer-grade."

The iPhone 4S, which officially launched last Friday, sold a record-breaking 4 million units in the first three days. The 4S isn't as revolutionary as some people had hoped for--it's got a faster processor and a better camera, but no cosmetic improvements.

However, one of its key selling points is Siri, the sassy virtual assistant that understands natural language commands (for example, instead of saying "What is the weather like today?" you can say "Will I need an umbrella today?").

Not everyone is as unimpressed as Rubin. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently praised Siri in The Telegraph, and also said that Apple was a "good competitor, but a different one." Ballmer also knocked Android, saying that it was "hard for me to be excited about Android phones."

Of course, Ballmer doesn't have the best track record with bashing competitors: in 2007 he said Apple's iPhone (now the best-selling smartphone in the world) had "no chance" of getting any significant market share, and in 2008 he said that Google (whose mobile OS Android currently has the largest chunk of market share) wasn't exactly at the "top of the list of the top competitors we've got going in mobile."


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