Google Wants Star Trek Computers

It seems that Google wants us to talk to computers more and the computers talk back to us. Or at least that’s the indication with their recent acquisition of UK company Phonetic Arts. Google seem to like the whole talking at machines thing: their Google Voice Search has been around for a while, and comes as standard on Android phones. Similarly the iphone has a voice control element.

But do we really want talking computers? Apple and Microsoft tried it way back. When I got my first talking Mac, I used it for a day and then turned the thing off because it was annoying. With the Microsoft speach recognition, the problem seemed to be that it worked quite well. However, working quite well isn’t good enough for an input device. It needs to work very well, all the time. I’ve found the same problem with the Google Voice Search. On the one hand, it’s useful if you are walking along the road – using a touch screen on the move is nearly impossible. On the other hand, it doesn’t work well enough.

There’s also the whole talking machine thing. Some people like the idea, but I think that many people (including me) are put off by it. When cinemas started having voice recognition, I felt stupid talking to the machine. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I don’t see much evidence of people using voice control or search on their smartphones. So whilst Google may be striving for the Star Trek ideal, when it comes to computers there are more than just technological barriers to overcome.

Trouble with iphone App Store (again): Google considers going web

Following from my previous post about the problems developers are having with the iphone appstore, it seems that Google may have found a solution for Google Voice: optimise it for the iphone web.

Given Apple’s recent track record, it comes as no surprise that Google Voice was banned form the appstore. The reason for this may be less to do with the iphone itself, and more to do with their relationship with carriers/operators such as AT&T in the US or T-Mobile in the UK. It highlights the problem that with the increase in data services and VOIP in 3G networks, mobile operator’s traditional revenues may just dissappear.

Google are probably not too worried about mobile network operators, and are more interested in seeing their apps in the marketplace. According to a report in the New York Times, their solution is to develop a web-based app optimised for the iphone. This is a good solution and in in keeping with Google’s Web 2.0 principles. It may also be a lesson for other developers thrown out of Apples appstore.