Apple’s Biggest Threat
Voicebot featured an article today breaking down some of the findings from Microsoft’s recently published white paper, 2019 Voice Report. One of the key findings from Microsoft’s research was that Siri and Google Assistant are the most widely used smart assistants, which makes sense considering the large user bases of smartphones, a luxury that Amazon does not afford. The market share between Google Assistant and Siri should be flagged inside of Apple as the single largest threat the company has faced since releasing the iPhone. Why? Because Google Assistant offers the most compelling reason yet to leave the Apple ecosystem. There are three reasons why Google Assistant represents a new type of threat than Apple has yet to see.
The first reason is around the type of value that Google Assistant provides. Throughout the first decade of the iPhone, Apple’s defense to the various Android handset competitors was to more-or-less match hardware improvements being rolled out by Samsung, HTC, Sony, etc. Whether that be around the camera, the battery life, waterproofing, and any other incremental hardware upgrade ushered in by Apple competitors, Apple was able to consistently appease its user base enough to avoid any type of mass switching to Android. Google Assistant on the other hand, is such a problem for Apple because unlike the incremental hardware improvements which offered static value, Google Assistant compounds in value. The more that you begin to use Google Assistant, the better the service gets by integrating into the full Google suite and learning from you.
Changes How You Use the Device
On top of the compounding nature of the value, there’s another aspect to Google Assistant and that’s how it redefines how you use your device. Whether you were using a top of the line Samsung smartphone with a better battery or an older version of an iPhone, the way that you used the two devices was largely the same – an OS that was based around tap/touch/swipe and an app economy.
If Apple continues to neglect Siri and not move toward something similar to what Google is doing with Google Assistant, such as a SiriOS, Apple risks an increasing level of disparity between the user experience of using an Apple to an Android. This would ultimately mean that potential buyers wouldn’t be considering the two on a feature-by-feature basis, but instead, on whether they want a smartphone that is increasingly AI-oriented or not. It’s different than when the overall nature of how the devices worked was similar enough that people’s buying decisions were more generally based around brand, features and price.
Exposure to Google Assistant
The last reason this threat is different than threats in the past is due to exposure. Unless you were to switch from iPhone to an Android device, or vice-versa, you wouldn’t really know what you were missing. Google Assistant, on the other hand, can be used and accessed in a number of different ways with new hardware, such as smart speakers and smart displays, as well as through Apple products (you can download the Google Assistant app on your iPhone). Again, this is a problem for Apple if they do not put more of an emphasis on Siri, as the gap between Siri and Google Assistant will continue to grow. The more that Apple users are exposed to said gap, the more they might think to switch their handset and accessory hardware to Google’s ecosystem where Google Assistant is natively baked in.
It’s hard to think that Apple introduced us to Siri in 2011 and today has the same smart assistant share that Google does with Google Assistant, even though Google debuted GA in May of 2016. It feels like I’m becoming a bit of a broken record here, but I continue to maintain the belief that Apple needs to throw its weight and attention squarely behind Siri as we head into this year’s Apple developer conference, WWDC. The iPhone represents the company’s cash cow, comprising more than 62% of the company’s total revenue, but more than that, it serves as the “mothership” for all its offerings and is crucial to the two largest growth segments of the company, wearables and services. Google Assistant is the most formidable threat the Apple ecosystem has encountered in the past ten years and therefore should be handled and viewed by Apple as such.
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