A little bit ago I published a link to a post about the latest Apple acquisition, which was related to mapping and search. In the post I declared that I think Google should be very afraid of Apple when it comes to search. Unfortunately I barely scratched the surface.
I’d like to double back to that thought now and dive into the topic a little bit more.
In a nutshell I see Apple attempting to create a search tool which shows the answer, instead of the search tool that Google has which shows a list of answers. The distinction is linguistically simple, but vastly different in implementation.
Of course we already know that Google sees the value in showing answers, as they will for some questions already, and we know Apple is building this as we have all used Siri.
What makes Apple so dangerous is not simple:
- Apple has the ability to not be beholden to any one tool. Apple owns very little in the way of search, but because of that they can switch to anything that is better at any time. Apple’s users will never notice, or never need to adapt to a new backend service — because they never saw that service to begin with, all they saw was Siri, or Spotlight. So if you ask Siri what the capital of Kazakhstan is, you’ll never notice or care how Apple gets that answer. If you ask that of Google, and all of a sudden Google just shows the name: ‘Astana’. Well that’s a little jarring. Both provided the same (correct) answer, but because you only expected Astana from Apple, and a list of links from Google, you were off put by Google’s change. That’s a huge problem for Google.
- Apple isn’t showing ads. No really. Apple doesn’t need to, and Google must show ads.
- Google’s play seems to be to predict what you need, whereas Apple just wants to have the answer you need to you as fast as it can. One is creepy, the other is logical. I don’t remember Captain Picard walking around the Enterprise and upon asking another crew member “where did Earl Grey come from?” having the fucking ship’s computer chime in and say “Charlton & Co. of Jermyn Street in London… Maybe, it’s not clear”. No instead Picard would have had to ask the computer. Why ask the computer? Because having a computer chime in as a know-it-all would be exceedingly annoying.
In the end Apple is interested in telling you what a research paper concluded, but Google is more interested in showing you the research paper, and the bibliography for it while occasionally, and seemingly randomly, offering a summary as well. And how to you get a user to look at search results long enough to monetize that user if all you show is the one answer?