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Siri横空出世,谷歌面临威胁

Kevin Kelleher 2011年11月11日

问题并非Siri是否是一个能取代谷歌搜索框的搜索引擎。它完全就是另一种类型的搜索——一种代表未来的搜索。

    埃里克•施密特称:苹果公司(Apple)iPhone 4S上所谓的个人助理应用程序Siri将使搜索的面貌焕然一新。在他做出这番表态之前,谷歌(Google)似乎还可以高枕无忧。如今网络世界飞速扩张,要在网络中遨游,难免令人望洋兴叹,大家都希望有一种最可信赖的搜索方式。正是谷歌推出了搜索框,成为弥合这两者之间鸿沟的桥梁。这个搜索框久经考验,可靠耐用。而Siri的出现却开始威胁到它的地位。有些人称,谷歌应该对此表示关切。其他人则反应过度,将Siri称为“谷歌杀手”,这也在预料之中。

    上周,针对参议院小组委员会对谷歌在搜索行业的垄断问题调查,作为谷歌前任首席执行官和现任董事长的施密特发表了回应。过去几年间,他已从一位经验丰富、成就卓著的首席执行官沦为了一门信口开河的大炮,多数时间都在收回、解释自己从前的一些言论;当然,有时候他也只能一笑了之。因此,他最近引述了一些评论人士的言论,称苹果的Siri将成为谷歌的竞争对手,并暗示Siri可能会是搜索领域崛起的新势力,这一做法马上招来了一片质疑之声。有些人认为,施密特不过是有意借此淡化谷歌的搜索垄断地位。另一些人则指出,Siri默认的搜索引擎其实就是谷歌。

    但是,面对苹果公司咄咄逼人的攻势,谷歌如何才能坐稳寡头的位置?事实是:搜索行业正处于剧烈变革的早期。这一点虽然同样富有戏剧性,但并非确凿无疑。未来的搜索将会更价接近如今的Siri,而不是眼下的谷歌——也就是说,它将会带有更多直观的人工智能的意味。苹果和谷歌——也许还有微软(Microsoft)——将在创造这一未来上扮演关键角色。这意味着,现在还在对谷歌是否是寡头感到忧心忡忡实属不合时宜。

    实际上,谷歌甚至已不能再算作是搜索寡头了。目前它控制着约三分之二的搜索市场。在类似餐饮搜索Yelp,旅游搜索Kayak和实时聊天搜索Twitter等专业化搜索兴起前,这个数字要更为可观。据说谷歌还拥有97%的移动搜索市场。但是,这一统计再次忽略了一个事实:大多数人是通过应用程序而非浏览器访问移动网络的。

    在某种程度上,搜索的核心一直就帮助我们在网络上找到自己需要的信息。搜索出现之前,就有Yahoo和Excite这样的索引目录。随后,AltaVista和Inktomi基于简单的搜索框建立了搜索引擎,接着谷歌横空出世、一统江湖。它首先推出了更好的搜索框,然后又不断对其进行改进。谷歌对搜索界的影响并不是一场突发性的革命,而是一种渐进式的改进。只有在回顾历史时,谷歌对搜索领域的影响显得深远。

    It sounded pretty good until Eric Schmidt said it: Siri, the so-called personal assistant app on Apple's iPhone 4S, is the new face of search. Siri is threatening to sideline the tried-and-true search box that Google turned into a cross between a wishing well and the most trusted way to navigate a rapidly sprawling web. Some said that Google should be concerned. Others, predictably, overreacted and labeled Siri a "Google killer."

    Then last week Google's (GOOG) former CEO and current chair released his responses to Senate subcommittees looking into Google's dominance in the search industry. In the past few years, Schmidt has transitioned from a seasoned and successful CEO to something of a loose cannon who spends most of his time retracting, or explaining or laughing away his previous statements. So when Schmidt, citing some of those commentators who saw Apple's (AAPL) Siri as a Google competitor, suggested that Siri could be a force in search, he drew a skeptical response. Some said Schmidt was just downplaying Google's prominence in search. Others pointed out that Siri's own default search engine is Google.

    But how can Google be a monopoly that is about to get its clock cleaned by Apple? The truth is less certain, if equally dramatic: The search industry is in the early stages of a disruptive period of change. It will look more like Siri than Google does today -- that is, it will have a more intuitive AI feel to it. Apple and Google -- and maybe even Microsoft (MSFT) -- will play a key role in shaping it. Which means it's well past time to be worrying about whether Google is a monopoly.

    In fact, Google isn't a even search monopoly anymore. It controls around two thirds of the search market. That statistic was more significant several years ago, before the rise of specialized searches through sites like Yelp for restaurants, Kayak for travel and Twitter for real-time chatter. Google is also said to have 97% of mobile search. But again, that overlooks the fact that most people access the mobile web through apps, not browsers.

    In a way, search has always been about connecting us with the information we need on the web. Before search, there were directories like Yahoo (YHOO) and Excite. Then AltaVista and Inktomi built search engines based on the simple search box, and Google cleaned up, first by building a better search box and then by continually improving it. Google's impact on search wasn't a sudden revolution but a gradual progression that -- only in retrospect -- seems profound.

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