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Saturday, February 4, 2023

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Report: Apple Buys Mobile Search App Siri

Siri describes itself not as a “mobile search tool,” as I have in the headline, but rather as a “virtual personal assistant.” The company went public with its technology and iPhone app just a few months ago and now Apple has reportedly acquired it for an undisclosed sum that is likely more than $50 million but less than $100 million. We learned of this from Business Insider, which itself learned of it from Robert Scoble, who got the news out of an FTC filing.

Siri uses Nuance’s speech recognition technology on the front end and taps into third party APIs, such as Yelp, OpenTable, Citysearch and others to deliver content and results. What Siri does is analyze unstructured “natural language” queries and deliver results in ways that are “actionable.” The company is seeking to move beyond SERPs and take users to actions.

Here’s an example:

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In the narrow frame of “Google vs. Apple,” people will want to interpret this as “oneupsmanship” or in furtherance of their “war.” But the technology is compelling enough that it justifies the acquisition outside of that competitive context.

It is possible I suppose that “Apple wanted to keep it away from Google” or otherwise better compete with Android’s now broad speech capabilities. And I would speculate that Apple probably has a plan to use Siri’s “intelligence” in ways that cut across apps, perhaps embedding some of the core functionality in a future version of the iPhone OS itself. We’ll obviously have to see.

Siri had an unannounced deal with a “tier one” US mobile carrier, which currently doesn’t sell the iPhone. It will be interesting to see what happens there as well.

See related posts for more discussion of how Siri works:


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