Digital Assistants – Intelligence community.

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Google out front but hampered with its issues.

  • Google and Microsoft are lining up with Apple for the battle of the digital personal assistants but even in its current predicament, Google has a massive advantage.
  • Microsoft has just launched a beta version of its assistant, Cortana, for Android while Google is aiming to get its new service Now on Tap (see here) onto devices as soon as it can.
  • iOS 9 will see improvements to Siri to make it more intelligent and better able to correctly respond to questions and requests.
  • The ideal digital assistant is one that can anticipate what it is that one needs and present it without being asked.
  • It should also be able to understand the context of every question that the user asks and return the right information or carry out simple tasks.
  • These ideals are very far from becoming even close to a reality but I am certain that the solution lies in advanced machine learning.
  • When it comes to machine learning, Google is far ahead of both of its competitors and this shows through clearly when all three are asked a series of questions and gauged on which provided complete answers. (see here).
  • Not surprisingly Google Now fared meaningfully better (88% complete answers) than either Siri (53%) or Cortana (40%).
  • There is far more to a great digital assistant than just answering questions, but when it comes to the other aspects of these products, machine learning is still at its heart keeping Google way out front.
  • Unfortunately, Google is struggling with a number of issues that will limit its ability to keep Google Now far ahead of its competitors unless it moves fast.
    • First. Its latest innovation Now on Tap (see here) which has the potential to meaningfully improve Google’s data collection, requires Android M to work.
    • Google’s inability to update the software on its devices means that it could be 2017 or 2018 before Android M will be mainstream (see here).
    • Second. Many of the core team who developed Google Now have left the company after their creation was folded into the core search business against their wishes.
    • Their stock options going sideways for a year also did not help.
  • These two issues are likely to delay Google’s roll out of improvements to Google Now to users, giving Cortana and Siri time to catch up.
  • Cortana on Android is another move by Microsoft to make its ecosystem operating system agnostic, aiming instead to encourage users to like and spend time with its services.
  • This is exactly the right strategy for Microsoft to become an ecosystem company but critically it must make its Digital Life services, fun, intelligent, easy to use, useful and integrated.
  • Many of them are very far from this ideal today, indicating that there is still and awful lot of work ahead.
  • Both Microsoft and Apple have a chance to catch Google while it gets its house in order but they will have to act now.
  • I still prefer Microsoft over both Google or Apple in the ecosystem as the market is expecting much less from it meaning that there is significant upside should it succeed.
  • Success in the ecosystem is already table stakes for an investment in both Google and Apple.