Google’s Android chief Andy Rubin thinks that talking to your phone isn’t such a great idea. I’ve expressed some reticence here as well, arguing that it has to actually work well (unlike the existing features on Mr. Rubin’s Android phones, no wonder he doesn’t like it) and it really won’t be useful in every situation. In a cube-farm office, for example, dictating e-mails to your is silly, and mildly embarassing, as well as a disturbance for your colleagues. And, lo and behold, dictation has been around for a while, but I’ve yet to find an office using it.
With all the attention Apple’s Siri is getting, you might be forgiven if you thought Rubin is just expressing sour grapes that his primary competition may have leap-frogged him for a while. Instead, I think there’s a marketing lesson there for us. Rubin worked at Apple once, maybe there he learned a few things from Steve Jobs who often did the same thing that Rubin is doing now: dissing the competition’s technology.
Mr. Jobs has told us that no one wants a netbook, and released the iPad. No one wants a 7″ tablet, but who knows if there is one on the drawing boards. What Jobs often meant by these observations is that there is something wrong with the technology on the market. It doesn’t meet customer’s expectations in some way and he and his team at Apple are going to figure out what that is, and if it’s a worthy market, they’ll solve the problem, likley calling it something else entirely.
Rubin is likely playing the same game. Today he can tell us that people shouldn’t be talking to their phones, but to a person on the other side. Tomorrow, he may very well reveal a technology that works ‘just like a real person on the other side.’ I can imagine Google combining their artificial intelligence solution with search and crowd-sourcing to make this very argument. That unlike Siri, Google’s voice activated assistant compiles the information knowledge of real people–you’re not talking to an AI, you’re talking to the millions of fellow internet users.
Market leaders really need to shoot down their competition and promote their own products, even in the face of weaknesses. The lesson that Rubin may have borrowed from Jobs is to be out there, aggressively taking a position, ignoring the accusations of hippocrite and sour grapes, because, at the store counter, few are thinking about the mood of the CEO when deciding if they really need the latest Andriod phone or Apple iPhone.