Hey Google exec: I do want to talk to my phone

By Sharon Machlis

Here's some disheartening news for those of us who recently bet on Android in making a device purchase: Google's Andy Rubin doesn't think I should want to ask my phone aloud to help with life's daily tasks.

"I don't believe that your phone should be an assistant," Andy Rubin, senior VP of mobile for Google and Android co-founder, told Ina Fried at All Things Digital. "You shouldn't be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone."

Actually, I'd like to do both. Yes, I use my phone to text, email and even occasionally place calls (although quite rarely these days). But I also use it to check sports scores and the weather forecast, research restaurants and look up information to solve arguments while out to dinner. And I find it really annoying to try to do all that typing on the cramped real estate of a telephone screen (especially now that no high-end Android phones come with physical keyboards).

Mr. Rubin, were you not paying attention to the commotion about Siri? Do you truly believe that all the interest and excitement over capabilities such as "Siri, remind me to buy some bread when I leave work" is going to fade?

Obviously, speaking commands isn't for all situations (although neither is placing a verbal cell-phone call, and that hasn't stopped people from doing so at museums, outdoor music concerts and the like. But I digress...). However, speaking aloud to my phone makes sense plenty of times, such as while I'm out for a walk ("Play music", "Check my schedule") or while my husband's driving on a weekend trip and we're looking for a lunch spot. "Find nearby restaurants" is a lot easier than trying to tap keys on a tiny screen as the car's moving.

There's already a fair amount of Siri-similar capabilities for Android, but you've got to cobble them together yourself via 3rd-party apps. I was hoping that more Siri-like features would find their way into future versions of Android. If Rubin is setting the strategy, though, it seems unlikely -- unless he was just trying to downplay an area where Android suddenly appears to have fallen behind. And if that was his intent, there were better ways to phrase it than "You shouldn't be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone." Hopefully, other viewpoints will prevail.

Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her e-mail address is smachlis@computerworld.com. You can follow her on Twitter @sharon000, on Facebook, on Google+ or by subscribing to her RSS feeds:
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