If you have not boarded the bus for the voice-controlled future, you really need to buy a ticket soon. Forget apps. We won't be installing them forever, updating them constantly, and trying to figure out which one controls the sprinklers in the front yard.

Instead, we will be doing what we've always done to stay productive: We will be talking, conversing, discussing, and creating a dialog.

At a tech conference today, Google announced the new Google Home product, a small cylinder that looks like a robot that's missing its head and arms. It is, in fact, a robot. It plays music, but more importantly it can tell you the weather and rearrange your schedule. You can use it to send a text message or remind you about an upcoming event. It's not out yet, but it is groundbreaking.

Devices like Amazon Echo provide a similar service. They're also shining a glowing orb in the heavens about the future of technology. Voice is it. Voice wins. There's no question we will keep speaking to our televisions, our cars, our phones and tablets, and every other device in the home and office. That means business is changing again. Just when you think it's a good idea to make a mobile app, right? Instead, mobile apps will eventually sputter out of existence. Here's why.

There are too many apps, too much confusion, and too many gadgets around that duplicate features. What we really need is streamlining. I don't want to use a weather app. I just want to know the weather. I don't want to get specific with directions when I'm in my car. I want to ask about pizza places.

It's not overstating things to say that all businesses will shift to voice in some way. If you're an insurance company or a sheetrocker, maybe you won't see immediate benefits, but there's no question you'll start talking to chatbots, virtual assistants, and other AI tech through verbal means. As apps become less common in the next 5-10 years, voice will take over. In many ways, it already has.

Imagine how this will work. Eventually, we will ask an office bot about the printer in the next room and whether it needs fresh ink cartridges. En route to a client's office, will ask who will be at the meeting (and the bot will know). In real estate, we won't use an app like LinkedIn to find out more info about a new seller, we'll ask the LinkedIn bot. The dramatic shift, signaled by devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo, is that we will speak conversationally with chatbots about anything business related (and about anything in our personal life).

That's why it's so important to start thinking about voice control. There will be an expectation that customers will be able to interact in some way with a business by voice  -- not that someone can visit your company site or download your app. Ordering food at a restaurant, discussing an auto repair, arranging for lawn care, providing feedback on a new product, picking classes for the fall semester, getting suggestions on clothes that match -- all done by voice.

The bus is moving -- have you climbed on board yet?

Published on: May 18, 2016
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