Apple has reportedly bought Siri, a mobile assistant app that brings a non-Google type of search tool to the mobile environment. The deal, which was unveiled when Robert Scoble spotted a filing with the FTC about it and has since been confirmed by Siri would give users of Apple's mobile devices the ability to search the Web for relevant results in a way that's different from Google's approach.
On its website, Siri explains itself:
Just like a real assistant, Siri understands what you say, accomplishes tasks for you and adapts to your preferences over time. Today, Siri can help you find and plan things to do. You can ask Siri to find a romantic place for dinner, tell you what’s playing at a local jazz club or get tickets to a movie for Saturday night.
But instead of crawling a Web index for the results, Siri's approach is to reach out to APIs on the Web for results. As mobile devices - whether smartphones or tablets like the iPad - become more like Web-connected computers, the types of searches that users are conducting are also changing.
Increasingly, the searches on a mobile device are targeted to locations and moments-in-time. That is, users are less likely to search for data points for a research paper from their phones. Instead, they're looking for sushi bars, ATMs and gas stations that are near their current locations.
Siri acknowledges that its technology is still growing and that results might be hit-and-miss. But the core idea of where it's taking search is one that's likely to grow, especially now that Apple is in the mix.
One of the draws of the Google Android mobile experience is the tight integration that those devices have with Google services, such as search, mail and maps. The search feature within Google Maps, for example, is top-notch and usually on the money when it comes to helping users find the nearby sushi bars, ATMS and gas stations. (It's saved me on more than one occasion.)
With Apple and Google presumably about to go head-to-head on mobile search, the mobile users will be the ones to benefit.