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Apple should be afraid of Google. Very afraid

Commentary: Google is crushing Siri and dominating the smart home, but Apple has a chance to strike back in June.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is no stranger to opposition to government moves seen as limiting the rights and protections of members of the LGBT community.
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Google revealed a cascade of exciting innovations to its Google universe this week at the annual I/O developer conference. Apple should be quaking in its boots.

The search and software giant is making tremendous strides in AI through Assistant; image search and detection through Google Lens; web search through Instant Apps; and search through Jobs on Google.

In other words, Google's ecosystem is positioned to run circles around Apple's, whose tightly integrated software and hardware have failed to innovate at Google's pace when it comes to Siri, VR, the smart home and car dashboards. (More on these below.)

OK, Apple, ecosystem's in your court.


While Google's approach, which draws on deep databases of information, wants to own the platforms that other companies build upon, Apple prefers to control a complete, reliable package -- and that historically means it takes longer to get everything "right".

In a few weeks at Apple's developer conference on June 5, it'll have the chance to swing back at Google (and a rejuvenated Microsoft) with its own advancements in iOS for the iPhone, Macbook, Siri AI, watch and maybe even the smart home.

But Google has thrown down the gauntlet for Apple in a big way this week. Here's why Apple should be worried -- and why the company needs to bring its A game to WWDC in June.

As of today, Google beats Apple in...

Virtual assistant: Google's voice search tool has long outpaced Apple's Siri. It's more accurate and gives better responses more often than not. The next-gen Google Assistant will soon let you type queries and identify objects with Google Lens (below). You might soon order lunch after having a conversation with Assistant. It's coming to the iPhone, too.

Home: Google Home just got a raft of exciting features that leapfrogs it ahead of even Amazon's Echo family. To wit: it'll now personalize responses based on who's talking to it, and has introduced hands-free calling. Apple has its HomeKit integration, but we're still waiting for a living room hub like Google Home to tie it all together. (Rumors are, it will come.)

Images: There are a few debatably cool updates to Google Photos, but the most exciting change by far revolves around Google Lens, which basically identifies objects and places seen through the camera. Google Lens will integrate first with Google Photos and Google Assistant.

VR and AR: Apple is rumored to put alternate reality into the next iPhone camera, but Google already has a dedicated VR headset, VR-ready phones and two AR phones.

Chrome: The browser syncs with mobile and is available on more devices (you can't get Apple's Safari browser on Android). Google announced that it's also bringing its Chrome browser to VR.

Cars: Android is working on ways to make your car's infotainment system (the stuff behind your dash screen) run on Android from the get-go. This is different from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which change the contents of that screen when you bring your phone into the car. Google is trying to go even deeper.

Search and database: Google's main strength is its search tools and enormous database of places and facts. At I/O, it announced that it'll simplify job listings, making them look like search results.

Apple's chance to strike back

Google might have a leg up in some areas, but Apple has room to rebound. For example, its messaging apps, from iMessage to Face Time, are stronger than Google's which remain a confusing melange of overlapping and redundant platforms. Apple is better at integrating its software ecosystem across tightly controlled devices, too.

Also, those Apple devices update to the latest software version without missing a beat -- something that Google, which mostly lets a bunch of partners make devices -- just cannot do. (The newly-announced Project Treble will alleviate some of this, but phone makers that use their own software layers still won't be completely in sync.)

To be sure, Apple has a chance to whip up excitement for its next OS, (likely called iOS 11) in a way that Google's new Android O -- while still a useful step forward -- has not.

Apple will probably never be able to catch Google in search, but it does have the resources to catch up in some other ways that matter, like VR, AR and the smart home.

The countdown is on.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

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