Google: Android Siri Killer Coming Soon

Posted by · December 14, 2011 12:50 pm

It’s called Majel. Or rather, it’s going to be called Majel. And it’s going to kill Siri. At least that’s what Google says its mobile software minion Android is currently developing.

Igniting this rumor that has since caused mass pandemonium in the Android blogosphere was a post from Taylor Wimberly on the blog Android and Me.

“Majel is an evolution of Google’s Voice Actions that is currently available on most Android phones with the addition of natural language processing,” Wimberly writes. “Where Voice Actions required you to issue specific commands like ‘send text to…’ or ‘navigate to…,’ Majel will allow you to perform actions in your natural language similar to how Siri functions.”

A nod to the Federation Computer in Star Trek (“Majel Barrett-Roddenberry”), the Google response to Siri could be here by the end of the year. However, Wimberly makes it clear that this shouldn’t be expected. With the end of the year rapidly approaching, she acknowledges that January or February would probably be a more “realistic” time to expect the new Android technology.

Whenever it officially debuts, it is important also to note that Majel will likely only be limited to Google search queries in its first release. Sure to come later, Wimberly assures, will be natural language commands for controlling phone actions and applications.

Even still, there are a few reservations worth highlighting.

Despite my not-so-secret Apple bias, it does not require my unconditional impartiality to realize that attacking single features on Apple products is a waste of time, at least in the long run. To the contrary, actually, the introduction of a Siri-like capability to Android phones would be more properly framed as an expectation than a so-called “Siri killer.”

This brings me to my next point: Calling a new product or feature the “killer” of its competitor is quickly becoming cliché. Instead of fueling a vendetta against the brand from which Google likely gleaned the improvements that Android is currently making to its own voice-controlled software, it would again seem more prudent to focus on providing a suitable competitor in the smartphone market. After all, most consumers don’t typically purchase devices because of single features (unless that feature is an extremely low price). Instead, consumers first choose the brand—Apple, Android, etc.—and only then decide which device to purchase.

In my case, that means deciding first that I want to get my new smartphone from Apple. Then I decide whether I want—in this case—an iPhone 4 or an iPhone 4S, what color I prefer, and, if necessary, what wireless carrier I’m going to use.

To put it simply, if you’re constantly chasing someone, then by definition you’re never going to be at the head of the pack. Seizing the lead takes the institution of a brand that consumers will unfalteringly follow, as well as the creation of either new or “like new” products and features. Case in point, although Siri was not the first voice-activated phone assistant on the scene, Apple undoubtedly distinguished itself from earlier attempts which failed to go viral.

In other words, while Apple relies on its iconic brand to validate and sell new products and features, Google still seems to endorse a philosophy that relies on individual Android features to attract consumers.

  • David Warfield

    As I was reading your blog I was having a hard time understanding why Google claims Majel is a “Siri killer” when only a piece of the product will be available in February, if then. I guess they’re trying to kill an elephant with a butter knife!

    I think the “killer” term is a bastardization of “killer app”, which was positive. For those old enough to remember, Lotus 1-2-3 was a killer app, one that businesses decided that they could not do without, until Microsoft Office came around. In fact there are some that would argue that 1-2-3 is the reason for the explosion of the desktop PC in the 80’s. Of course, 1-2-3 almost was an Apple killer too, because businesses found that they didn’t need to spend all that money on a machine that was used primarily for spreadsheets!

  • Christopher

    Actually the original killer app which inspired 1-2-3 was VisiCalc.

  • CrushSpam

    Brand is about the last thing I consider when choosing a phone. First I look at what it will do for me.

  • Prowse!

    The article was titled by the blogger; Google has never publicly stated that Majel will be a Siri killer. Besides that, Majel cant kill Siri unless Apple looks at it and decides to ask fr a licensing deal with Google to give Apple customers the option of Siri OR Majel. Also, without Siri installed on Android devices already, there is nothing to compare – no death here.

    Blogger, Apple is a brand, Android is an Operating System. Motorola is a brand. iPhone is a model. Droid is a model. Do you see how that works?

    Most customers do NOT search out brand first – they “… First I look at what it will do for me.” 100%. Not even the idle rich go for brand first.

    Blogger, why do you assume that Majel wasn’t being designed and tested by Google employees long before Apple purchased Siri? It was,

    Google dosnt rely on pointing out features, no more than you do by introducing an article that talks about a feature.

    I do agree, that while the necessity of Apple having Siri finally came to be – and you cant tell us that the Apple pundits werent hawking Siri as an important feature – how is that any different than Android getting a Siri-like feature such as Majel. There is no argument presented here – all I see our a string of facts with loose connections to support a planted claim of “killer”.

    In other words, while Apple relies on its iconic brand, so does Google. How is relying on features worse or better than relying on brand? There is no logical conclusion that there is a difference. That’s like comparing Apples to Donuts; It’s just as easy to inject apples into donuts as it is to wrap dough around apples – they both need baking.

    While we know that app functions will be controlled by Majel, you fail to mention that Siri will Never be allowed to control app functions in an Apple device (Example: Siri cant read text NOR SMS, while IRIS does now and Majel will, right out of the box).

    Also, look at the fundamental difference, Siri needs specific commands – Android already has had that since Voice Actions. Majel, when it is first released, will follow natural language – so you will be able to ask for a song by saying “Play such and such” or “I want to hear such and such” or “find me some Sting” or even “how about a song, Majel, you pick” (obviously one of many way for Majel to randomly pick and then play a song. Siri has currently only ONE command that is used to play a song. Perhaps Apple will add natural language to Siri – but wouldn’t that violate a patent? Wouldn’t that make Apple the chaser, rather than the chased?

    I see what I did there.

  • Kat

    This whole article is rediculous. Android has had Iris available in the Android Market. Which was written in 8 hours after the launch of Siri. At work we did a compare of Siri and Iris. Iris won hands down as it was multilingual being able to speak and interpret Dutch (which Siri cannot), and with more accurate informational answers.

    So before you write an article like this, please do your research first!

    Market.android.com search for Iris by Dextra