Eric Schmidt: “Apple’s Siri is a significant development…”

Eric Schmidt on September 21, 2011 before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights on “The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?”:

Senator Herb Kohl (WI) asks:

If your answer is that Ms. Mayer did accurately describe Google’s policy, doesn’t ranking Google’s sites automatically first in this manner give Google an unfair competitive advantage over non-Google web sites? And doesn’t this policy deter new innovative services from entering the market?

Marissa Mayer is Google’s VP for Location and Local Services. I’ll jump to Schmidt’s answer regarding Sen. Kohl’s second question:

Even in the few weeks since the hearing, Apple has launched an entirely new approach to search technology with Siri, its voice-activated search and task-completion service built into the iPhone 4S.

Sen. Kohl:

In September 2010, you were quoted as saying, referring to Facebook and Apple, “We consider neither to be a competitive threat . . . our competitor is Bing.” Do you stand by that quote, or do you contend that Google does compete with Facebook? If the latter, why were your views different in September 2010?

Schmidt starts out by admitting his “statement last September was clearly wrong.”:

Apple’s Siri is a significant development — a voice-activated means of accessing answers through iPhones that demonstrates the innovations in search. Google has many strong competitors and we sometimes fail to anticipate the competitive threat posed by new methods of accessing information.

I don’t think Google failed to anticipate voice-activated search at all. Google Voice Actions is an app similar to Siri that has been available on Android for quite some time. Siri also depends quite heavily on Google’s search engine and search traffic on Google might actually increase due to Siri making search easier. I’m fairly sure Schmidt already knew all of this when presenting his answers to Sen. Kohl. But I agree with Schmidt that Siri is a significant development, and a development Google will certainly want to be part of. I expect a Siri-zation of Google Voice Actions in the future.