Gary Morgenthaler Explains Exactly How Siri Will Eat Googles Lunch

The iPhone 4S is on the streets, and accompanying it is a helpful young virtual assistant named Siri. You’ve probably heard something about Siri by this point, as tech blogs and the media writ large, have been yammering about Siri’s technology at full blast. Since the beginning, and even more so since Siri was acquired by Apple in 2010, there’s been a lot of excitement about voice recognition technology.
This hit fever pitch with Siri’s native launch on the 4S. Of course, Siri isn’t perfect. She’s been down and out and has experienced a backlash due to limitations in voice recognition, inability to open apps, etc. But many people (among them, one Eric Schmidt) take another stance: Siri is game-changing, and not only that, she poses a significant threat to Google (and beyond).
In his letter to the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt talks quite a bit about Siri and how it represents “an entirely new approach to search technology” — one that is a “significant development”. Basically, he says that Siri is the biggest threat to Google’s control of search, well, ever. The writing, as they say, is on the wall.
So, we thought there was no better way to get the lowdown on Schmidt’s statement to the Senate Subcommittee and the future of the feisty young virtual assistant than by talking to one of the people who played an integral role in Siri’s early life.
Gary Morgenthaler, a partner at the eponymous VC firm, Morgenthaler Ventures, was the first investor in Siri in 2008 and served on the company’s board of directors until it was acquired by Apple. Morgenthaler was also an early investor in Nuance Communications, now a leader in voice recognition (and also now used in the iPhone 4S).
“Eric might be more right than he knows,” says Morgenthaler. “A million blue links from Google is worth far less than one correct answer from Siri,” he adds. These are very early days for Siri, but already he hears that “Siri’s usage has been 10x more than what Apple anticipated.” The big potential, of course, is if Apple opens up Siri to outside developers, which could create a new wave of voice-enabled apps and give Apple an edge over Android and other mobile platforms. (Morgenthaler also gets into the challenges Apple must overcome before it can open up Siri).
If people start using Siri to bypass search, that is a huge threat to Google. But how would Siri make money? It wouldn’t be from advertising. In Morgenthaler’s mind, the biggest opportunity is getting in the middle of transaction. “Corporations