Google's Eric Schmidt
Google's Eric Schmidt Reuters

Apple's Siri is a significant development and could pose a "competitive threat" to Google, according to the search giant's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt.

Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant that lets iPhone 4S users conduct internet searches, write messages and set reminders by speaking to the phone, launched with the iPhone 4S last month.

"Google has many strong competitors and we sometimes fail to anticipate the competitive threat posed by new methods of accessing information," Schmidt said.

In a contradiction to a statement made in September 2010, where Schmidt denied that Apple or Facebook were a serious threat, the Google executive chairman now accepts that "my statement was clearly wrong, Apple's Siri is a significant development - a voice-activated means of accessing answers through iPhones that demonstrates the innovations in search."

Schmidt's comments come while Google is in the midst of being investigated for illegally abusing its power and dominance in online search. The search giant is being accused of manipulating its search results to direct disproportionate amounts of traffic to its own products, such as YouTube.

As reported by the Telegraph, Google "has always prided itself on the purity of the algorithm that powers search results. It claims that it makes manual adjustments solely to improve the service for consumers."

Siri - which describes itself as a humble personal assistant - grabbed the headline when Apple launched the new iPhone 4S last month, but some have regarded the application as a gimmick. Complaints have also come from the UK and Europe, where Siri is unable to search for local shops and businesses, and cannot provide directions, because Apple has yet to arrange a deal with a locational content provider outside of the US.

Meanwhile, hackers have been working hard to make Siri work on devices other than the iPhone 4. Some have got Siri to work on the iPhone 4, iPod touch and iPad, but a tutorial explaining how to achieve this is not yet publically available.