Is there room for two virtual personal assistants on iOS devices? With the recent release of Google Now for iOS, we’re about to find out.
On the surface, Siri and Google Now seem to perform the same functions. They’re both great for looking up restaurants, finding directions and phoning your friends. But where Google Now stands out from Siri is its ability to make pertinent suggestions based on information you’ve previously shared with Google, like your calendar and search history. So why is Google taking the effort to bring their award-winning Android app to the iPhone?
Differences in mobile strategy
Apple has always been known for their highly-restricted, yet incredibly user-friendly operating systems and devices. They’re also no stranger to heated rivalries. The current Apple/Google battle for mobile supremacy is strikingly similar to the Apple/Windows battle over PC leadership in the late 80s/early 90s. Whether it’s computers or smartphones, Apple insists on providing both the hardware and software for their devices with as little outside help as possible.
Google, on the other hand, got their start as a web-based search engine that worked with multiple browsers and devices. Cooperation has been in their DNA since their first sponsored link, which explains their willingness to jump through Apple’s hoops. As a company whose revenue is largely based on ad sales, Google realizes the importance of finding the broadest audience possible.
What’s to lose?
There’s no clean victory in this tug-o-war. For Apple, bringing programs like Google Now for iOS into their market means increased competition for proprietary programs like Siri. For Google, the path to Apple’s App Store is littered with enough legal and technical hurdles to drive the average company to bankruptcy. As a matter of fact, Apple has already tried to sue Google for patent violations over the way Google Now operates on Samsung’s Galaxy S 4, claiming it’s too similar to the way Siri works on the iPhone.
Once the legal dust settles, Google still has to consider how running their apps on iPhones may reduce the exclusivity of Android devices, but that doesn’t seem to be a huge concern for them. Google currently has 28 apps in the iOS App Store, while Apple has zero in the Google Play store.
What’s to gain?
By allowing Google programs in the App Store, Apple is making sure Mac users with a Gmail account stay faithful to Apple hardware. It’s a defensive move, but a smart one. Apple is currently gaining on Android’s market share, and they don’t want anything to slow down their momentum.
Google’s gain is a little easier to see. By offering apps on both platforms, Google gets more users. And with the profitability of Google Now heavily dependent on sponsored suggestions, more users means more advertising dollars. In the end, there’s only one clear winner in this mobile platform melee, the users.