Apple Spreading its Search Wings with Siri Acquisition

In the never-ending quest to be at the top of the technological landscape, Apple has taken an extra step toward possibly entering the search market by acquiring Siri, a company that creates personal assistant and search apps for the mobile world. The exact details of the acquisition are relatively vague, but an early-termination request that was filed with the Federal Trade Commission is believed to be a signal of the transaction. The monetary value of the acquisition is also unknown, but it could surpass the $100 million mark.

Siri, whose investors include the Li Ka Shing Foundation, Menlo Ventures, Morgenthaler Ventures, and SRI International, saw its beginnings a few years ago in 2007. It did not officially launch its mobile search assistant until February of 2010, so its quick sale to Apple could be seen as a surprise to some. It also shows just how innovative its product is, considering Apple’s high level of interest that spurred the acquisition. Siri received some public praise back in March during the SXSW Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator contest, as it was voted the Most Innovative Web Technology.

What exactly does Siri do? It basically acts like a virtual personal assistant on the iPhone, taking a lot of the legwork out of online searches. It also uses natural language, so the user can give the search queries that one would give an actual person. The use of natural language makes Siri very intuitive and user-friendly. The app is free for the iPhone, and accepts either typed or spoken commands, giving the user added flexibility.

For example, you can ask Siri for a restaurant reservation in your city on Tuesday, and Siri will use a variety of web services to complete the request for you. You can even ask the assistant if it will rain tomorrow, and it will look up local weather forecasts to advise you of what to look out for. This technology not only combines several services into one, but it saves plenty of time as well.

As of now, the Siri app is only available for the iPod Touch and the iPhone 3GS. As for any future plans, it is not known if they will expand their app making to other platforms, though one would likely believe that such a move is in the works, especially with the recent release of the iPad.

Many believe that Apple is using its purchase of Siri as a direct shot aimed at Google’s Android devices, which have advanced search functions of their own. Many also believe that search assistants like Siri are just the tip of the iceberg, and that many mobile searches in the future will be of even higher complexity and functionality. The acquisition also points to the possibility of Apple entering the online search world and becoming a major player against Google and Microsoft in the future.

Even if Apple does not enter the search market in the future, the Siri acquisition definitely adds strength to the company by solidifying its mobile search functionality on the popular iPhone.

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