Google's Eric Schmidt: Apple's Siri could pose 'threat'
GOOGLE’S executive chairman and former chief, Eric Schmidt, has conceded that Apple’s Siri voice controlled personal assistant could pose a "competitive threat" to the company’s core search business.
He made the comments in a letter responding to questions from the US Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, as Google is in the middle of being investigated for illegally abusing its power and dominance in online search.
In a previous statement to the committee in September 2010, Schmidt denied that Apple or Facebook were a serious competitive threat.
However, in a move which has been seen by technology pundits as an attempt to downplay Google’s online prominence, the former chief backtracked on this statement, writing: “My statement was clearly wrong," he said. "Apple’s Siri is a significant development—a voice-activated means of accessing answers through iPhones that demonstrates the innovations in search.
"Google has many strong competitors and we sometimes fail to anticipate the competitive threat posed by new methods of accessing information.”
Schmidt also cited two technology articles which called Siri a “Google killer” and Apple’s “entry point” into the search engine business.
At the heart of the antitrust investigation is the allegation that Google manipulates its search results to direct disproportionate amounts of traffic to its own sites, such as YouTube. Google has always prided itself on the purity of the algorithm that powers search results. It claims that it makes manual adjustments solely to improve the service for consumers.
The case has clear echoes of antitrust probes into Microsoft in the nineties, which saw the company pay millions of pounds in fines and prevented from apparent plans to dominate huge swathes of the IT sector.
However, Google will benefit from changed laws, and from the difficulty of proving that Google has abused its powerful position, rather than simply providing a service that millions of businesses and consumers choose to use every day. The company said that users can easily switch to other services. It handles more than two-thirds of US searches online and four out of every five web searches across Europe.
Apple launched Siri, ‘the humble personal assistant technology’ last month when it unveiled the new iPhone 4S.