By Aman Shah
Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft – the four major tech players in the market have been competing against each other, trying to prove their superiority over each other. You may remember the heated words exchanged between Mark Zuckerberg founder of another tech-giant Facebook and a genius talent on the rise – Elon Musk back in July 2017. The debate revolved around who knew more about artificial intelligence.
Another debate is on here: Who makes use of artificial intelligence to a greater extent. Whose assistant is friendlier? – Google’s ‘Assistant’, Apple’s ‘Siri’, Microsoft’s ‘Cortana’ or the new tech giant Amazon’s ‘Alexa’? Four of them have gained control of either people’s phones, laptops or homes. These personal assistants aren’t mere apps but a technology. A technology that is adopted or partnered by many third-parties. Let us look at their inceptions and partnerships.
Apple Inc. is still considered as the pioneer of the voice-controlled technology entering people’s pockets. Siri was first integrated into iPhone 4S at its release in October 2011. Siri has become an integral part of Apple’s products and has been adapted to many of Apple’s platforms like iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, Apple Watch and recently in Home Pod. This technology is exclusively used by Apple. Apple Inc. hasn’t shared or partnered its technology with any other parties as of now.
Over the course of years, Apple has expanded the line of officially supported products for its own Siri, including various iPhone models, as well as iPad support in June 2012, iPod Touch support in September 2012, Apple TV support, and the standalone Siri Remote, in September 2015, Mac and AirPods support in September 2016, and Home Pod support.
Google Now and Google Assistant
Google currently has two virtual assistants. Google Now was released in July 2012. It is used to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of web services as per the inputs of the user. Google’s second virtual assistant ‘Google Assistant’ was released in May 2016. It was first included in Android 4.1 (“Jelly Bean”) and was first supported on the Galaxy Nexus smartphone. It has been primarily available on smartphones and smart-home devices. Unlike Google Now, Google Assistant engages in two-way conversations like Siri.
In April 2017, Google released the technology, allowing third-party developers to build their own hardware that can run the Google Assistant. It has been integrated into Raspberry Pi, cars from Audi and Volvo, and smart home appliances, including refrigerators, washing machines, and ovens, from companies including iRobot, LG, General Electric, and D-Link.
Initially released in April 2014 Cortana was created by Microsoft for Windows 10, Windows phone, Invoke smart speaker, Microsoft Band and Xbox One. Soon it was integrated into Skype. Unlike its competitors, Cortana is claimed to be proficient in 9 languages. Cortana also differentiates between various accents of English – Indian, American and British. Microsoft has integrated Cortana into numerous products such as Microsoft Edge – Windows 10’s own browser. In May 2017, Microsoft in collaboration with Harman Kardon – another innovative tech company announced INVOKE, a voice-activated speaker featuring Cortana.
Alexa was launched in November 2014 especially for its own Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot devices. Amazon Echo (shortened and referred to as Echo) is a brand of smart speakers developed by Amazon.com. It also controls many smart devices using itself as a home automation hub. Soon the technology became reliable and was started to be used by many companies namely Lenovo, LG, Fabriq, General Electric and Invoxia. And not to forget the automotive giants Ford, BMW, Mini, Toyota and Lexus have decided to give Alexa a seat in their cars. Surprisingly, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana have actually become friends with each other when both the companies joined hands in first of its kind collaboration. They both have agreed to open each other’s apps and have given official recognition to one another.
Which one is better?
The question is too subjective here. Each of the intelligent virtual assistants has been paired with many of the companies by their parent companies. So, you may not find a constant superiority of one of the assistants over another in different cases provided. The question asked here can be compared to “Which creature is fastest?” A cheetah cannot be compared to an eagle. Similarly, the intended question can only be asked for specific cases.
The case considered here is of Apple’s Siri losing market to Amazon’s Alexa.
In which cases is Apple’s Siri superior to Amazon’s Alexa?
Let’s suppose you have to navigate to your office after hiring an Uber. Alexa may have three problems here – Alexa needs third-party apps to navigate. But due to Alexa’s current status, it may not have such apps to do so. Alexa may not work here in its current form in Amazon’s Echo. It needs Wi-Fi to do so and so it isn’t portable. Also, Alexa hasn’t made its way towards some third-party apps like Uber, Ola or Bookmyshow to book rides or tickets. In its current form, Alexa isn’t supportive of these problems of daily life. But when considering cases like its voice-catching ability or its witty answering abilities, Alexa is still ahead of its time.
Is Alexa a future threat to Siri?
Yes, it wouldn’t be foolish to say so. Right now the biggest difference between these two competitors is how they are meant to be used. But these questions may not remain unanswered after the contracts by Amazon with third-parties are implemented. Siri is tightly controlled by Apple, Amazon has welcomed developers and innovators to the develop Alexa by allowing them to create many kinds of modifications.
Ford, Whirlpool, Lenovo, GE, Ford, and Toyota are a few of the brands announcing plans to add Amazon’s voice-activated assistant to their devices. Whirlpool will make it possible to interact with us by saying something like, “Alexa, how much time is left on my wash cycle?” rather than sprinting downstairs to the laundry room. Amazon has partnered with many smart-watch makers to install Alexa in their products. This may allow Alexa to win the market by beating Siri by a simple rule of addition of numerous watchmakers over Apple’s Siri, only found in Apple’s Smart-Watches.
Siri is part of just the Apple’s iPhone in the smartphone industry, while Amazon has partnered with companies like Huawei, HTC, TCL and Motorola to install Alexa in their numerous upcoming products. Apple has always preferred its quality of products and services over the products’ affordability. In contrast to that, Alexa is found to have more accurate interactions than Siri according to many surveys. The same may happen as in history has happened with Apple Maps when Apple tried to gain market. But Apple was forced to surrender to rival apps due to inaccurate and inefficient maps of its own. The sales figures aren’t published by any of the given companies so an exact comparison can’t be drawn. But the future of Siri may not be bright if it is made to sit at its Apple-home.
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