Google, as you may have heard, announced yesterday that it was releasing its high-profile Android 4.1-level Voice Search technology as a standalone app for iPhone and iPad users. Voice Search -- not the same thing as the voice commands present in older versions of Android -- is kind of like Apple's Siri in that it lets you talk to your phone in natural language in order to get information or complete tasks.
And therein lies the potential trouble. Apple, as we all know, isn't exactly famous for having an equal-opportunity playground on its platform. The company bans apps like Batman punches bad guys -- fast, frequently, and with no sense of remorse.
Apple's App Store rejections aren't just about porn, either: The company has famously put the kibosh on countless apps for random (and often inconsistent) reasons. It wasn't until a year-long inquiry by the FCC, as you may recall, that Apple finally let Google's own Google Voice app onto its precious shelves.
In that case and many others, Apple's official reason for recoiling was that the app supposedly "duplicated" a "core functionality" of the iPhone. That's something we've heard from the iPolice a lot: If a third-party app is deemed to compete with or be too similar to a service Apple already offers, there's a decent chance it'll get the axe.
So back to Google's Voice Search. The program, as we've said, is similar in general functionality to Siri (the main difference being, you know, that it actually works). And even without Apple's ongoing beef with Google, that's a well-documented touchy area for the guards of the pearly iGates.
Not long ago, for instance, Apple brought down its bright red rejection stamp on an app called Voice Answer, reportedly telling its developers the app was "too similar to Siri" and was consequently not in compliance with App Store guidelines. The program was eventually approved -- but only, according to its developer, after three months of "negotiating, tweaking and pushing."
One can't help but wonder whether Google's Voice Search -- a far more high-profile and advanced utility -- will face a similar sort of uphill battle. Not only does Voice Search have the potential to outshine Siri on Apple's own grounds, but it'll also bring top-notch voice-powered functionality to users of most iDevices. Siri, meanwhile, is made available only to those with either the iPhone 4S or the most recent iPad; users with older devices aren't granted access to the feature, even if they are running the latest iOS software (funny how it isn't "fragmentation" when Apple does it, eh?).
Google told reporters it expects the Voice Search app to hit the App Store in the next few days, so now the true test begins. If the app arrives as promised, maybe that's a sign that something has changed inside the Magical Palace. If not, well, we'll have quite the interesting little showdown on our hands.