Apple Inc. (AAPL.O) has shaken up responsibility for a key product, Siri, in an effort to integrate the voice-activated assistant more deeply into the company’s devices in the face of competition from rivals including Amazon.com Inc.
Software head Craig Federighi will now oversee Siri rather than services chief Eddy Cue. The change was made official this week in updates to the executives’ biographies on the Apple website. Cue, who is in charge of products such as iTunes, Apple Music, Maps and iCloud, has taken on more responsibility with the addition of a video content creation team that may form the basis of a new streaming service for the iPhone maker.
Apple introduced Siri in 2011 in the iPhone, but it has since lost ground to rivals such as Amazon’s Alexa and Alphabet Inc.’s Google assistant. In an effort to attract the best academic talent, Apple has in the past year relaxed its rules on publishing academic papers about artificial intelligence. Just last month it released a study on its website showing how deep learning, a method for developing AI, is used in Siri’s voice.
Siri was built around technology originally developed by Silicon Valley research lab SRI International, and is becoming increasingly important as Apple removes the home button from its next top-of-the-line smartphone and unveils new devices. The HomePod smart speaker released later this year will be largely voice-controlled, and thus lean heavily on Siri’s capabilities.
The HomePod is Apple’s answer to Amazon’s Echo, released late in 2014, and smaller Echo Dot speakers. Amazon’s devices have proven popular with shoppers, allowing them by voice command to check the weather, stream music, order pizza and, of course, order more merchandise from the e-commerce giant.
Samsung Electronics Co.’s Siri competitor, dubbed Bixby, offers deeper integration than the Apple offering. Unlike Siri, it lets users control the Samsung S8 smartphone’s settings and many of its functions, though it sometimes struggles with actions at which Siri excels, such as music playback.
As senior vice president for software engineering, Federighi is responsible for operating systems used to run Apple’s devices, such as macOS for laptops and iOS for iPhones and iPads. Federighi joined Apple when it acquired NeXT Computer in 1997, then left and spend a decade at e-commerce specialist Ariba Inc. before returning in 2009. Bill Stasior remains the vice president in charge of Siri and reports to Federighi. Website MacRumors reported the executive switch earlier Friday.
Cue oversees a large area of responsibility, which is expanding as the Cupertino, California-based company commits US$1 billion to making films and TV shows over the next 12 months. In 2015, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook moved oversight of the App Store from Cue to marketing chief Phil Schiller.