- Apple's Siri is currently the No. 2 digital assistant behind Google Assistant, a position that the iPhone maker will likely lose to Chinese tech giant Baidu's Duer in the next few years, researcher Strategy Analytics predicts.
- While Siri's lagging behind other virtual assistants hasn't hindered Apple's core smartphone business from performing well, it has begun to hinder Apple's ability to enter new markets. As a result, the company has restructured by combining its various artificial intelligence (AI) divisions into a new department led by recent hire John Giannandrea, formerly Google's head of search and AI.
- Giannandrea is now in charge of Apple's machine learning division, its Siri team and the Core ML team. Core ML is the machine learning API Apple launched last year to help native AI tasks and AI-focused apps and services from third-party developers run more efficiently on iOS devices.
Apple's hiring of John Giannandrea is one indication that the tech giant is focused on developing its voice-enabled technology amid growing competition. Apple introduced digital assistant Siri in 2011, giving the company an early market lead with voice tech and no real competitors. Siri was touted for its ability to convert words into text and to interpret natural language in answering questions or handling functions like making calendar appointments. The iPhone maker has gradually ceded that lead as other tech companies have invested heavily in developing voice-recognition technology and voice-enabled smart speakers in recent years.
Digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have grown in popularity alongside rising sales of the company's respective smart speakers, a market that is forecast to reach 225 million units worldwide by 2020, per data from market researcher Canalys cited by The Wall Street Journal. Amazon Echo and Google Home are forecast to each have 34% of the market, maintaining their dominance with Apple's HomePod having a 10% share. Apple missed last year's key holiday shopping season by delaying its HomePod until February. Since then, its sales have been slow and reviewers have criticized Siri's limited capabilities. Apple sold 600,000 speakers in February and March, per Strategy Analytics.
Giannandrea oversaw AI and search technologies at Google, and will be in charge of Siri and Apple's machine-learning efforts. The new job means he'll oversee greater integration among the machine-learning tools developed by startups Apple bought in the past two years, including Lattice and Turi, to improve Siri's performance.