WSJ: How Siri went from virtual assistant market leader to laggard

Siri has gone from being a competitive differentiator for Apple to nearly its opposite, a product seen by many as falling behind its rivals. Regardless of the empirical truth, it’s the widely-held view among tech industry insiders who help shape popular opinion.
An article in the The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) provides an extensive look at how Siri went from market leader to its position as perceived laggard. The article suggests internal cultural issues and employee departures have slowed improvement of the virtual assistant:
In the years since [Siri was acquired], former Siri team members say, progress has been slowed by a failure to set ambitious goals, shifting strategies and a culture that prioritizes user privacy — making it difficult to personalize and improve the product. The project also has suffered from the departures of key team members, some of whom went to competitors.
Apple bought Siri in 2010. It was initially a ground-breaking addition to the iPhone. Recognizing the

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Apple expanding successful Search Ads to three new English-speaking markets

Apple launched app-store Search Ads in October 2016. Since that time they’ve received praise from developers as a high-converting, high-value app discovery tool.
Today the company is announcing that Search Ads will become available in the UK, Australia and NZ. The booking UI opens today and ad serving begins on April 25. Developers running campaigns in the US will be able to clone their ads for the new markets.
AppsFlyer issued the following assessment about Search Ads’ performance in a report issued earlier this year:
[Apple had] the best retention in iOS North America, while proving their ability to scale with the third highest number of installs of non-gaming apps. With the strongest debut index performance we have seen to date, Apple came in #3 in the Power Ranking in question.
Beyond strong retention metrics, Apple said that, on average, its Search Ads are seeing conversion rates of greater than 50 percent, meaning that half the time a user clicks an

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Google launches Gboard keyboard features on Android devices

According to multiple reports, Gboard — Google’s keyboard designed specifically for iOS devices — is now available on Android devices.
A report from The Verge says that a Google Keyboard update is bringing Gboard features to Android, including the integrated search function, the emoji search tool and new shortcuts.
“It’s currently available only as an APK from Google without detailed release notes, although it should make its way over to the Play Store soon,” writes The Verge reporter, Adi Robertson.
Gboard originally launched in May of this year, followed by a major update in August that added internationalization features, smart GIF suggestions and custom keyboards.
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Apple rolls out Search Ads for the App Store

After a beta period that began in June, Apple is now opening up Search Ads for the App Store to all publishers and developers. It’s currently available for the iPhone and iPad only in the US.
While Apple will certainly make money from this program, the main rationale appears to be app discovery. Google has had search ads in the Play store for well over a year.
Search Ads will be delineated with a blue background. Apple will generate the ad images and copy from the app metadata supplied by the publisher or developer, so there’s no ad copy per se. It appears there will only be one ad per search.

Developers set a max daily budget and an overall campaign budget. Apple’s Search Ads use the familiar “second price auction” to set winning bid prices. Apple says that relevance and bid price will determine which ads show. (Developers will pay on a “cost per tap” basis.)
Search Ads allow for

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Apple now has public place pages — but what exactly are they for?

Apple is apparently now publishing public place pages for selected landmarks, according to a post on 9to5Mac. Below is an example (via Allan Miller):

If you’ve got the latest MacOS update “Sierra” installed you can access these pages from the Safari toolbar. On “El Capitan” a smaller drop-down page without a URL shows up for similar kinds of queries.

In all likelihood these URLs, which Andrew Shotland identified as “Apple Maps ID + Lat/Long + Name,” are intended for sharing, especially with users of non-Apple devices and platforms. They may also be for indexing on Google and Bing.
Presumably these pages can and ultimately will be indexed. Currently they don’t show up in search results. Shotland said today in the Local Search Workshop in advance of SMX East that he thought these pages could rank well if they were indexed.
The story in 9to5Mac characterized the pages as being for “landmarks and some points of interest.” In my mind it makes

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Google iOS app gets better listening skills for voice searches & newly added features

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Google rolled out a number of new updates to its iOS app today, including the ability to better hear voice searches conducted in noisy environments.
In addition to being a better listener, Google’s iOS app will also save recently visited pages. According to the update notice, tapping on the ‘recents’ icon (found on the top right corner of the homepage, or to the right of the ‘G’ button) will return pages visited during the previous seven days.
Local search results for hotels and gas stations have also been updated. Hotel searches will now include information about amenities like wifi, gym, pool and laundry services, while gas station search results may include gas prices, as shown here:

There’s also a newly added ‘Forward’ button to move back and forth between pages for better navigation.
The post Google iOS app gets better listening skills for voice searches & newly added features appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Apple Maps becomes a platform with new extensions for third-party apps

Apple is opening up Apple Maps to third-party developers with new “extensions.” This is parallel to announcements made during today’s WWDC keynote for Messages and Siri .
In addition to a forthcoming “beautiful redesign,” developers can integrate their apps directly into Maps:
Now open to developers with new extensions, apps like OpenTable can integrate bookings right into Maps, and services like Uber and Lyft can make it easier for users to book a ride, without ever leaving the Maps app. Maps is even smarter with new intelligence that proactively delivers directions to where you most likely want to go next, based on your routine or appointments on your calendar. Once a route is planned, Maps can search along the route for gas stations, restaurants, coffee shops and more and provides an estimate of how the stop impacts the length of your trip.
Apple’s Eddy Cue suggested a scenario where a user can search for and book a restaurant, call a ride

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Apple gets into the SEM business with paid-search for app developers

Apple is getting into the paid-search business. At next week’s WWDC, according to a report in The Verge, the company will unveil paid-search ads for the App Store. It’s also going to introduce a new app-subscription revenue sharing model.
The App Store SEM possibility was first raised in a Bloomberg report in April. The actual product launch will come in the fall, but developers are being invited to join the beta today. According to copy on the Apple site:
Search Ads is an efficient and easy way for you to promote your app within the U.S. App Store search results, helping people discover or reengage with your app at the very moment they are searching for apps like yours. Designed to give users a safe search experience, Search Ads sets a new standard for delivering relevant ads while respecting user privacy.
Paid search ads could certainly help solve the app-discovery problem for iOS developers. There’s no information so far on

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Google App for iOS gets AMP content & sports highlights in Now cards

Google has announced new upgrades for its iOS app, designed to create a faster mobile experience.
As part of the updates, Google says it has cut down on loading times and is rolling out AMP content on the Google iOS app.
Now news articles from a vast array of publishers will load instantly for your reading pleasure. Just look out for the lightning bolt and “AMP” next to articles in the “Top Stories” section of your search results and enjoy blazing-fast news.Google’s Inside Search Blog
In addition to a faster experience, the Google App for iOS will also get sports highlights within Now cards.
“When you get a card with a sports highlights, just tap the play button and watch it right from the app,” writes Google’s VP of product management, Tamar Yehoshua, on the Inside Search blog.
According to Google, whether or not iOS users notice the accelerated speed of their searches and load times, the updates will save them a

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Report: Apple building AdWords-like ad product for the App Store

Taking a page from Google, Apple is reportedly building a paid-search-style ad product for its App Store. According to Bloomberg, Apple “has constructed a secret team to explore changes to the App Store, including a new strategy for charging developers to have their apps more prominently displayed.”
Bloomberg says that there are roughly 100 employees working on it. Some of the engineers on the project are from Apple’s iAd unit, which has substantially scaled down over the past year or so.
Given app discovery challenges, I would expect an auction for prominent placement to be both popular and lucrative for Apple (provided Apple does a good job with it). When the App Store store launched in July 2008 there were only 552 apps. Today there are more than 1.5 million, creating a significant visibility/discovery problem for publishers and developers.
A substantial chunk of mobile ad revenue is still tied to app promotion. Facebook has been particularly successful with app-download ads.

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