FORTUNE -- "Siri could change Apple's fortunes like iTunes and App Store … or end up being like the useful-but-inessential FaceTime or the essential-but-difficult Maps or the desirable-but-dead Ping."
Nobody seems to know who Kontra is -- a Twitter bio describes him (her?) only as "a veteran design and management surgeon, perennially in search of complex problems to operate on" -- but he's been on a roll lately. His take on the so-called skeumorphic wars that reportedly pitted Jony Ive against Scott Forstall was brilliant (see Apple's design problems aren't skeuomorphic). And his analysis of the hurdles that Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) face as they take search to the next level is the smartest thing I've read on the subject.
Google has spent enormous amounts of money on an army of PhDs, algorithm design, servers, data centers and constant refinements to create a global search platform. The ROI [return on invesment] on search in terms of advertising revenue has been unparalleled in internet history. Apple's investment in Siri has a much shorter history and far smaller visible footprint. While it'd be suicidal for Apple to attack Google Search in the realm of finding things, can Apple sustainably grow Siri to its fruition nevertheless? Very few projects at Apple that don't manage to at least provide for their own upkeep tend to survive. Given Apple's tenuous relationship with direct advertising, is there another business model for Siri?
The answer, he explains in exquisite detail, is maybe. The ball so far is in Cupertino's court, but according to Kontra, it's Apple's game to lose.
Highly recommended: Is Siri really Apple's future?
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