Apple Inc. is handing oversight of its Siri team to new artificial-intelligence chief John Giannandrea three months after hiring him from rival Google, shifting responsibility for the voice-assistant technology to its third leader in the past year.
Apple announced Mr. Giannandrea’s hiring internally in early April but hadn’t publicly laid out his responsibilities until Tuesday, when it added him to the corporate leadership page of its website. It said he will report directly to Chief Executive Tim Cook, with the title chief of machine learning and AI strategy and a purview that includes development of Siri technologies.
Mr. Giannandrea assumes control of Siri as it tries to fend off rising competition from rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google Assistant and Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa. Those voice assistants have outperformed Apple’s product in independent tests on its ability to accurately answer questions, forcing the iPhone maker to play catch up in a category it pioneered.
Apple officially shifted responsibility for Siri to software chief
last September. It had been overseen by senior vice president Eddy Cue since 2012.
Voice-driven virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, powered by artificial-intelligence technology, are gaining popularity by making it simpler for people to perform computing tasks like searching for information, shopping, and switching on lights. Industry executives expect the systems to be embedded across a host of devices from vending machines to cars to appliances.
The number of Google Assistant and Alexa users have swelled in recent years amid the growing popularity of smart speakers. The market is expected to reach 225 million units world-wide by 2020 with Amazon Echo and Google Home each claiming 34% of the market, according to market researcher Canalys.
Apple’s HomePod, which went on sale in February, has faced slow sales after reviewers criticized Siri’s limited capabilities on the device. Apple sold 600,000 speakers in February and March, according to market research by Strategy Analytics, and it is expected to claim just 10% of the global smart-speaker market by 2020, according to Canalys.
Apple declined to comment on Mr. Giannandrea’s role. The company has said Siri is the world’s most-used virtual assistant with over 10 billion requests processed monthly.
At Google, Mr. Giannandrea, known to colleagues as “JG,” oversaw artificial intelligence and search. His responsibilities at Apple, in addition to Siri, will include running Apple’s broad machine-learning efforts. The role gives him a chance to further integrate the machine-learning tools developed by startups Apple bought over the past two years, including Lattice and Turi Inc., to improve Siri’s performance, analysts said.
He also will oversee what Apple calls its Core ML technology, a system that extends the company’s machine-learning capabilities to app developers.
Write to Tripp Mickle at [email protected]