Let's see a show of hands for anyone else who was a little skeptical of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android chief Andy Rubin when he said, "I don't believe that your phone should be an assistant." Yeah, me too.
His comment was made while at AllThingsD's AsiaD conference, just a couple weeks after Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) unveiled the iPhone 4S, and was a clear potshot at Siri, Apple's virtual assistant. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows Phone head Andy Lees also took the opportunity at the conference to express a similar notion, saying having a virtual assistant on your phone isn't "super useful."
It would seem that Google is just in denial of its true feelings. According to the Android and Me website, Google has been secretly working on a "Siri killer" in a project codenamed "Majel." Majel is a reference that only true Trekkies would recognize: Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was the wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and she was known for being the voice of the onboard computer as well as playing various roles throughout the series' history.
Interestingly, Android's User Experience Director Matias Duarte had previously said Google's approach to Android voice actions would be "more like Star Trek," and "it's not that there's a personality, it doesn't have a name, it's just Computer." The initial release may even be by year's end, but would only include basic functionality at first, with more updates in future versions.
The rumor sheds some light on why Google recently picked up Zagat, the local restaurant review site, which had ominous implications to other review sites like Yelp (which Google pursued previously) and reservation service OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN ) . Just a few days ago, Big G also acquired Clever Sense, maker of the iOS and Android app Alfred. Alfred is -- you guessed it -- a personal assistant app that makes personalized recommendations for restaurants and other local spots, in what the company calls the "Pandora for the real world."
What happens when you throw Alfred and Zagat into a multicolored mixing bowl, add in a dash of Android, and blend thoroughly? Does Majel come out the other end?
Despite Google and Microsoft's Siri-bashing, virtual personal assistants are the next big thing. Even Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) may be prepping its own offering. Don't be surprised if Google releases Majel any day now, and Microsoft and Amazon follow up with their own assistants shortly after. I won't be.
Want to stay up to date with all the developments with virtual personal assistants? Make sure to add Apple and Google to your Watchlist to get the latest news and analysis and see if Majel can be a Siri killer. Virtual assistants are just one aspect of the mobile revolution, which is literally going to be the next trillion-dollar revolution. Don't forget to get access to this freshly released 100% free report that details one company that is helping power the mobile revolution from the inside, and how it will ride the mobile wave to riches.