In a surprising move, Apple has decided to shutter its 121-person artificial intelligence team that was focused on improving Siri operations in San Diego. This news came as a shock to the employees, many of whom are now facing termination if they do not relocate to Austin, Texas.
This begs the question – what does this mean for the future of Siri and Apple’s AI ambitions? The team was specifically working on annotating data to improve Siri’s abilities. Without their contributions, will Siri fall even further behind Alexa and Google Assistant in the voice assistant wars?
Apple claims the San Diego team will merge with the larger AI division in Austin, but terminations are still expected. Does Apple think it can trim some fat in this area without impacting Siri’s subpar capabilities? That seems unlikely.
More broadly, this hints at struggles within Apple’s AI division. If Siri is indeed a strategic priority, why shutter an entire team working to improve it? Cost cutting may be one motivator, but it’s risky when competitors like Amazon and Google are pouring resources into their assistants.
In the end, while the motives behind this move remain unclear, it feels like a step backward when Apple should be aggressively pushing Siri forward. With each passing year, the gap between Siri and the competition grows larger. This latest AI team shutdown certainly won’t help close that gap anytime soon.
So what do you think? Is Apple giving up on Siri, or just restructuring? How will this impact Siri’s abilities versus Alexa and Google Assistant? Follow us @gizmoweek, let me know your thoughts in the comments!