While the business community mourns Steve Jobs, we must simultaneously celebrate his unique method of creativity as well as his insightful ability to anticipate consumer desires unlike any competitors. His vision and products have actually given way to new industries and expertise that will echo exponentially for decades to come.
In fact, it is ironic that Jobs passed away the day after the announcement of the iPhone4s because within this product lies a very special element he helped shaped that heralds the next generation in smartphones.
This element could have a titanic effect on mobile commerce in the months to come and, overall, points to a much larger trend for which few can even begin to fully define its future business impact.
Voice meet phone, phone meet voice.
Instead, think of using your voice to speak to your phone as a personal assistant-of-sorts; a true hand-held computer that can carry out tasks. Apple's Voice-Control feature/app entitled Siri is a nice addition and only the tip of the iceberg of what we will begin to see regarding voice interface and the mobile phone. With Siri, for example, one can ask everything from the weather to dictionary terms and receive answers from the phone.
Cool, yes; but the real point-to-watch is how voice interface will expand business transaction. And several visionaries are hard at work right now push the envelope. Pat Higbie, EVP Corporate Development at Xtone Networksis the driving force behind adoption of the company's mission to marry voice and commerce. "At Xtone we firmly believe people want the option to use their voices to interact with mobile apps and content," explains Higbie. "Voice is more convenient for quick content and transactions, and it’s more usable on-the-go: driving, walking, exercising, shopping. In fact, Google reports that 25% of searches from Android 2.0 devices use voice.”
Claiming superiority to Apple's Siri, Google Voice Actions , Vlingo or Windows 7 , Xtone says its conversational interfaces are programmable to enable task completion of any complexity from paying a bill, booking a plane reservation, buying a song."
However, many are predicting that the real-game changer in voice will be the advent of real-time mobile voice translation actually converging with mobile transaction.
According to Common Sense Advisory an independent market research company, the convergence of mobile voice and transaction will be astronomical.
Rebecca Ray, Senior Analyst at the organization says, "Person-to-person money transfers are projected to become one of the most-used mobile applications in many countries over the next two to three years, rising to around 600 billion euros by 2015…However, in order to connect people and their money to other people and their money, along with commerce sites, means that people must be able to communicate in their own language."
One particular organization seems to be at the forefront of such developments. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) is preparing to release consumer domain translation applications within the next two months.
Jonathan Litchman, Senior Vice President, SAIC explains, “Commerce is not a generalized language. Commerce has word meanings specific to what you are buying, whether a car or a prescription. Because of this, domain specific mobile translation is going to become increasingly important for cross-lingual mobile commerce." He continues, “Business activities are going to happen when devices are not connected to the internet, and there will be value in an application that can operate without a signal.”
But some in the mobile industry suggest a more cautious outlook. Ross Rankin, COO of TripLingo a language mobile applications development company says, "I believe today's smartphones do not have the power, storage, and capabilities to do real translations. Many use cloud services, that push the processing over the internet to large clusters of machines to do the work. Which is fine but with data caps, data roaming charges, and spotty coverage this limits their use." He adds, " I really think in the short-term (voice interface) will have a very limited impact. It will be a novelty versus a real game changer."
We will only be able to guess at how Steve Jobs might have interwoven and further expanded voice interface in the years to come. However, one thing is certain, there are savvy pioneers already in play who see the vision and will likely become vital warriors within the mobile voice interface revolution.
Lauren DeLisa Coleman is a digital business strategy and communications consultant, analyst, journalist and speaker specializing in the convergence of Gen X, Y with digital media, particularly mobile technology. She has coined this unique convergent skill set and expertise in the term socio-economic digitalist* . Among some of the most prominent females in the space, she was recently cited as one of the "Top 50 Fabulous Black Women" by BlackBusinessWomenOnline.com . As a consultant, Coleman works with various companies providing strategy, analysis, education, thought-leadership and cultural intelligence as it pertains to the emerging technology arena. .