Google Gives Voice to Applications

Mike Vizard
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While the average person can type somewhere between 30 to 50 words per minute, most people speak many more words per minute. Looking to make it a whole lot simpler to capture all those thoughts, Google has been refining machine learning algorithms to provide a speech-to-text capability inside Google Docs.

Dubbed Voice Typing, Ryan Tabone, director of product management for Google Docs, says Google expects that the feature will one day supplant keyboards as the primary mechanism to input data in a document. In the meantime, Tabone says Voice Typing represents a significant advance in the average person’s ability to at least start creating a document using the spoken word.

Thanks to technologies such as Apple Siri, voice is emerging as a major element of the user experience. In fact, one of the reasons that advanced applications running on the IBM Watson platform are making so many inroads is that end users prefer to speak instead of write whenever possible.

In the case of Google Docs, however, the limiting factor is the need to verbally tell the application to insert commas and periods. But one day soon, those machine learning algorithms will be smart enough to figure that out on their own, as well.

In the meantime, Google is also making it easier to invoke its search engine technology directly from Google Docs in order to explore any given set of documents when researching a particular topic using keywords.

Locked in a battle with Microsoft to provide productivity applications in the cloud, Google is trying to entice more organizations to its platform by covering the licensing fees for Google Apps for the life of any existing enterprise agreements they might have with another application provider. That works out to be about $25 per end user, on average. In addition, Google is willing to foot part of the bill for some of the deployment costs that customers might incur should they need the help of an IT services provider to make the transition.

Although Google clearly started the shift toward moving productivity applications into the cloud, Microsoft these days clearly has a singular focus on Microsoft Office 365. The question now isn’t so much who is in or out of the cloud, but rather which application providers are in a position to provide the best user experience at the lowest cost possible.

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