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Google Exec Slams Apple's Siri on iPhone 4S

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"...and the Fox looked up at the grapes he couldn't reach and remarked, 'Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.'"

Aesop's fables are renowned for their timeless relevance to human nature, but none can be so readily applied to the tech sector than The Fox and the Grapes. A perfect summation of cognitive dissonance, the allegory exemplifies the self-protective attitude -- prevalent from the CEO down to the end user -- which belittles the products and features of competitors. And considering the top two players in this arena are Apple and Google, both are accustomed to tossing verbal grenades over the fence.

But a recent comment made by Andy Rubin -- Google's SVP of Mobile -- is particularly asinine and hypocritical given that it flies in the face of what every smartphone manufacturer is trying to achieve.

While on stage at the AsiaD conference in Hong Kong, Rubin gave a not-so-subtle jab to Apple's most prominent feature to the iPhone 4S, Siri. "I don't believe that your phone should be an assistant," Rubin said. "Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn't be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone."


This, coming from a company which implemented Google Voice Commands -- a service that responds to voice actions in a very similar way to Siri -- long before this version of Siri made its debut. Is it because Siri has a more advanced language algorithm that recognizes looser phrases rather than specific commands? Why should that be considered a negative?

And a phone shouldn't be an assistant? What?

Every smartphone is designed to perform as many tasks as possible and then tweaked to perform them with greater ease and function. The very services modern smartphones provide have evolved past simple communication long ago and are barely any different than the ones inherent to those of an assistant.

Interaction between users is important, yes, but a large portion of a mobile device is dedicated to gathering information and scheduling tasks. Remember Android@Home -- the home automation service which was showed off in May and barely addressed since? It would allow Android devices to remotely control tasks at home -- shutting off the lights, pre-heating an oven, turning on the AC, etc.

How is that any different from an assistant?

And if Andy was referring to the method of interacting with a device, it remains a shortsighted remark. If a company is locking a user into one specific, non-verbal method of relaying that information, well, then the tool isn't very versatile, is it?

Siri is an incredible tool, plain and simple. Talking to one's phone rather than typing in commands may not be everyone's cup of tea, but at least it's fleshing out the ways one can use a smartphone. (Looking at Google Voice Commands, Mountain View should already be aware of this.)

But if Andy Rubin doesn't think smartphones should become assistants, he's already a few years too late.

(See also: Google Engineer Calls Google+ a Complete Failure and How to Use Siri on Apple's iPhone 4S)

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