Google is trying to upstage Siri, the sometimes droll assistant that answers questions and helps people manage their lives on Apple’s iPhone and iPad.
The duel began Monday, with the release of a free iPhone and iPad app that features Google Now, a technology that performs many of the same functions as Siri.
It’s the first time that Google Now has been available on smartphones and tablet computers that aren’t running on the latest version of Google’s Android software. The technology, which debuted nine months ago, is being included in an upgrade to Google’s search application for iOS, the Apple Inc. software that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It’s up to each user to decide whether to activate Google Now within the redesigned Google Search app, which is available through Apple’s app store.
Google Now’s invasion of Siri’s turf marks Google Inc.’s latest attempt to lure iPhone and iPad users away from a service that Apple built into its own devices.
Google quickly won over millions of iPhone users in December when it released a mapping application to replace the navigation system that Apple dumped when it redesigned iOS last fall. Apple’s maps application proved to be inferior to Google’s ousted service. The app’s bugs and glitches made Apple the butt of jokes and fueled demand for Google to develop a new option.
Apple has been losing to Google on other fronts in a rapidly growing mobile computing market, an arena that was revolutionized with the iPhone’s release in 2007. Smartphones and tablet computers running Google’s free Android software have been steadily expanding their market share in recent years, partly because they tend to be less expensive than the iPhone and iPad. At the end of 2012, Android devices held about 69 percent of the smartphone market while iOS held about 19 percent, according to the research firm IDC.
Android’s success has been particularly galling for Apple because its late CEO Steve Jobs believed Google stole many of its ideas for the software from the iPhone. That led to a series of court battles over alleged patent infringement, including a high-profile trial last year that culminated in Apple winning hundreds of millions in damages from Samsung Electronics, the top seller of Android phones. That dispute is still embroiled in appeals.
The rise of Android is also squeezing Apple’s profit margins, and has contributed to a nearly 40-percent drop in the company’s stock price since it peaked at $705.07 last September, around the time that the iPhone 5 came out.
Android’s popularity is good news for Google because the company’s services are built into most versions of the operating system. That brings more traffic to Google services, creating more opportunities for the company to sell ads — the main source of Google’s revenue.
Google Now’s expansion onto the iOS underscores Google’s ambitions for the service. The company, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., views it as a pivotal tool in its effort to peer deeper into its users’ brains. In doing so, Google believes it will be able to provide more useful services and also show more relevant ads. For Google Now to become more intuitive, it needs to widen its availability.