You can ask Siri, Google Now and Cortana about movies, weather and sports, but you can’t yet ask them about your company’s budget for the fiscal year, or your department’s sales performance last quarter. That may be about to change, however, as Google is said by The Information to be in talks with HP about giving Google Now access to enterprise data, effectively creating a virtual assistant with corporation- and institution-specific smarts. And that could open a gateway to an entirely new kind of enterprise mobile computing.
Apple has also previously discussed a potential partnership with HP for enterprise computing (ahead of Apple closing the deal with IBM), with a workplace specific Siri making up part of the discussion, according to the Information, and HP is also working on its own to create a mobile search product aimed at business customers that it calls ‘Enterprise Siri.’ A partnership with Google would definitely help HP hurry its efforts to build a new breed of enterprise search with virtual assistant capabilities, however, as Google has a big head start thanks to its consumer facing product.
Making any digital assistant compatible with enterprise apps and data on authorized devices has huge potential in terms of corporate-issued and approved computing. The enterprise is a new battleground for Apple and Google, both of which have begun increasing their efforts to get their mobile platforms even more deeply embedded in workplaces, following an initial uptake driven mostly by the bring-your-own-device trend.
Adding enterprise smarts would allow employees to tie in appointments, contact databases, company data and other crucial information with their existing calendars, calls and location information, and you can see how that might be handy if you were preparing for a meeting, discussing project performance with a colleague or otherwise looking for a way to quickly access and synthesize information that otherwise might require logging into a specific dashboard and running a complicated query.
Much of the advantages offered by mobile virtual assistants today is in presenting contextually relevant information when needed, unasked for, and in making it easier to call up what you’re looking for with natural language, rather than having to use booleans and other archaic database search commands. In the enterprise, offering these and combining it with the increasingly valuable field of big data would be a carrot virtually every sizeable business would covet.
HP could definitely stand to do more in the enterprise software and services aspects of its business to try to shore up losses from the declining fortunes of PCs and printers, but the report doesn’t say how far along these discussions have progressed. Still, it’s an interesting area for exploration, and one that other companies like Microsoft (which already offers some developer access to Cortana) have clearly begun to mull as well.