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Siri to Evi: “Get Off My Lawn!”

It’s tough to compete with Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) popular personal assistant app, Siri.

I’ve mentioned before that Dragon Go! comes close. This app is actually developed by the company that makes Siri’s voice recognition possible, Nuance Communications (Nasdaq: NUAN).

And although the app doesn’t talk back or integrate with native applications as well as Siri, its results are arguably stronger. That’s because it pulls up multiple applications for the same search query. This allows you to quickly see more than one reference for your info with a flick of your finger.

This week, though, another competitor has started making waves in the voice recognition space.

Let’s see if it passes muster…

Evi’s Lukewarm at Best

Evi, developed by True Knowledge, brands itself as an artificial intelligence application that can “help with all of your everyday information needs.”

The application taps into True Knowledge’s advanced search engine that can dig up answers to complex questions. Much like the knowledge engine, Wolfram Alpha, which Siri uses to answer questions.

It seems to work well. For instance, you can ask Evi if it was dark at 8pm at Disney World. And Evi answers that “Dusk was at 6:21pm on February 26th 2012 in Disney World, so it was certainly dark at 8:00pm.”

And since Evi (like Siri) leverages Nuance’s excellent voice recognition technology, it interpreted everything I said in my tests without fail.

The problem is, that’s about all Evi offers.

It still falls short of working directly with native applications on the device – which is where Siri shines. While Siri can schedule meetings, set alarms, tell you how your calendar looks for the month, set timers, write new emails and read your text messages, Evi can do none of these things.

So though Evi might be a passable alternative to Siri for those with an older iPhone or Android phone, it doesn’t add offer an new innovations like Dragon Go! does. Which leaves me unconvinced that it can ultimately compete with Apple’s own personal assistant.

But it looks like Apple might disagree…

Good News for Nuance

Apple contacted True Knowledge on Friday and told the company that it’s going to give Evi the boot from the App Store.

For its reasoning, it referred to the rule in the App Store’s Terms and Conditions that says:

“Apps which appear confusingly similar to an existing Apple product or advertising theme will be rejected.”

Seriously, Apple? Give your customers a bit more credit to realize the difference between an application that’s native to the iPhone 4S and an app that’s manually downloaded from the market.

Could Apple be afraid of Evi? True Knowledge’s CEO, William Tunstall-Pedoe thinks so. He told Gizmodo

“I don’t think it takes too much of a leap of the imagination to realize that ‘confusingly similar’ is code for ‘competitive with.’ And that all the [positive] user and press reviews… have resulted in a change of heart from Apple about allowing its users to get the app.”

That might be a stretch, however, considering that Evi is certainly no match for Siri. But it certainly shows that Apple’s beginning to take voice control alternatives seriously.

And the increased buzz in the space can only be good for Nuance. As I’ve said before – owner of Dragon Go! and used by both Siri and Evi – it’s perfectly positioned to cash in no matter which voice control app ends up on top.

Considering Nuance has climbed 36% since I first alerted readers to the opportunity in October, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Good investing,

Justin Fritz

Justin Fritz

, Executive Editor

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