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Apple guzzles wobbly concierge service

Where Google walks, so Cupertino follows

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Apple has acquired a company whose only application is a voice-based concierge service for the iPhone, proving Apple can listen to its customers just as well as Google can.

Google's Android Platform has Voice Search built in, while Apple's iPhone only responds to the most basic of vocal commands, which is where Siri comes in. The application takes user questions and tries to guess what constitutes a useful answer, integrating with existing online services to order taxis, book restaurants and cinema tickets and so forth.

The Voice Recognition is provided by voice-specialists Nuance, but once a question has been transcribed Siri's service works out what the user might be asking, based on experience and with reference to any existing conversation. The company admits it's far from perfect, but goes on to demonstrate just how perfect it is:

Siri has been following the traditional give-the-product-away-in-the-hope-of-being-bought business plan, which has paid off perfectly with today's news. Neither company is being drawn on the financial details, though Business Insider reckons Apple must have paid somewhere around $150m based on how much Siri has spent and the age of the company.

And this is a search-engine play too – not in the traditional sense of finding things on the internet, but in the next-generation sense of steering punters gently towards the retailers and services with whom Apple gets along best.

Talking to the phone might seem strange, but with Apple already controlling what applications you can run, and what networks you can connect to, it seems a short step to hand over control of your social life to Cupertino too. ®

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