So I’ve decided I need an outlet to express random thoughts I have on my mind. I figured I’d make it public, since I’d like to think that I come up with interesting ideas every now and again. For my first post, I’d like to share my thoughts on Siri vs Google. I think my analysis serves best as a complement to this analysis, written by Kontra of CounterNotions.
Microsoft beat Apple in the laptop/desktop wars for any number of reasons, but one of the most important was platform openness - Microsoft made it immensely easier for developers to write apps for the platform. Apple was much more restrictive. Apple thought it could provide all the useful apps to the customer itself. Apple didn’t want to let any sloppy developers tarnish it’s prized walled-garden user experience. The problem with this logic, with 20/20 hindsight, was that consumers and businesses wanted domain-specific software functionality in a million areas. Apple could never deliver this, so Apple’s potential customers went to Microsoft, who provided an app platform that where developers created every business application in demand. In short, Microsoft pitted an army of developers against Apple. Apple never had a chance. Coupled with network effects, Microsoft grew to the order of hundreds of billions of dollars, while Apple was whittled down to being within 90 days of bankruptcy before Jobs came back in 1997.
Apple made sure not to repeat the same mistake with the iPhone - Apple was first to the market with a polished development environment for a modern, capacative-touch driven, mobile operating systems, and the reward has been on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars (fun fact: the iPhone is the most successful product in the history of the world through the first 5 years of its life). Although Microsoft did indeed have an open mobile OS in mobile before Apple, they never built any traction, so the network effects were a non starter. This time around, Apple recognized the need to bring developers onboard early and to empower them with great development tools. Today, Apple needs developers just as much as developers need apple. It’s a mutual massively profitable relationship. And it gives incentives to millions of people to unite under a single platform.
So looking at Siri vs Google under the light of a an army of developers with domain-specific search and intent functionality (Siri) vs a monolithic, generic search engine (Google), Siri presents a significant disruptive potential to Google. As the author of the article notes, there are monumental challenges in executing this vision, but if there’s any company in the world that can do it, it’s Apple.
Take a look at the following graphic, provided by David Haber on a TechCrunch guest post.
8 years ago, Google was most people's portal to find specific information on the internet. You would search Google, and click through directly to the content that you wanted to find. Today, that's no far less true than it's been in the past decade. If you want to search for your friends, you can go to Facebook. If you want to search the real-time news, search Twitter. If you want to buy things without coupon clipping, search Amazon. Amazon consistently has the best prices on most items, most of the time, with an excellent refund policy. If you want to find shoes, search Zappos. If you want to find some super-creative designs, search at Etsy. If you want to fund projects, search Kickstarter.
We live in a world today ruled by many small search engines, with significant domain-specific knowledge and expertise coded into them.
Google's monolithic search engine can never deliver domain-specific knowledge and functionality as well as an army of a million developers with domain-specific knowledge. Thus, Siri's challenge is enabling a million to fight Google.
Full disclosure: I am long Apple. I plan on exiting my position in the next 90 days.