Apple’s got an AI on you, and is building it bigger
Apple is acquiring AI companies at a faster rate than any other U.S. tech giant, claims GlobalData. This almost certainly reflects the company’s elevation of machine intelligence in its platforms, weaving AI inside everything it does – I guess probably even in supply chain management.
Hey Siri, can you spell ‘acquisition’
Four of the big FAAMG firms (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft & Google) together comprise most of the list, with Accenture the only non-US company in the top five. Accenture, incidentally, sits behind the recently introduced Apple Music Saylists for children with speech challenges.
The news reflects a trend. CB Insights last year claimed Apple was buying AI companies at a faster pace than Google, Microsoft, Facebook or Amazon. On a wider basis, Apple has acquired around 100 companies across the last six years.
Nicklas Nilsson, Senior Analyst on the Thematic Research Team at GlobalData, comments:
“The US is the leader in AI, and the dominance of US tech giants in the list of top acquirers also indicate that these companies have some defined AI objectives.”
What is Apple buying?
Apple’s main focus is on improving Siri or creating new features in iPhones.
- Inductiv was acquired to improve Siri’s data.
- Irish voice tech start-up Voysis was bought to improve Siri’s understanding of natural language.
- PullString should make Siri easier for iOS developers to use.
“Apple has gone on a shopping spree in efforts to catch up with Google (Google Assistant) and Amazon (Alexa). Siri was first on the market, but it consistently ranks below the two in terms of “smartness”, which is partly why Apple is far behind in smart speaker sales.
“Apple also want to make sure to keep its strong position within wearables. It is the dominant player in smartwatches. The acquisition of Xnor.ai last year was made to improve its on-edge processing capabilities, which has become important as it eliminates the need for data to be sent to the cloud, thereby improving data privacy,” explained Bose.
The AI giants are also competing for talent
“An analysis of GlobalData’s Job Analytics database also revealed that these top five acquirers are also on an AI talent-hiring spree,” explained Bose.
The extent of this spree is important to consider. All told, the top five big names posted over 14,000 jobs in the AI space in 2020.
Aurojyoti Bose, Lead Business Fundamentals Analyst at GlobalData, said:
“Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook collectively undertook 60 acquisitions in the AI tech space during 2016–2020 while Apple led the race with 25 acquisitions. AI has remained a key focus area for tech giants and growing competition to dominate the space has resulted in an acquisition spree among these companies.”
Accenture and Apple for the enterprise
It may be of interest to consider the one non-US company in this list. Accenture has acquired 17 AI-centric companies, including:
- ESR Labs for automotive software.
- N3 for data insights for sales people
- Clarity Insights – enterprise AI, analytics and automation (RPA?)
- Genfour – smart automation once again.
It will be interesting to see how Accenture weaves its business intelligence AI within future iOS products, given it has been working in partnership with Apple to develop iOS business solutions since 2017.
At that time, Apple CEO, Tim Cook said:
“Both Apple and Accenture are leaders in building incredible user experiences and together we can continue to truly modernise how businesses work through amazing solutions that take advantage of the incredible capabilities of Apple’s technologies.”
And Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s chairman and CEO, said:
“Based on our experience in developing mobile apps, we believe that iOS is the superior mobile platform for businesses and are excited to be partnering with Apple.”
Both partners should be highly motivated in this work, given the fast-growing demand for Apple, Macs and iOS devices in the modern enterprise.
It is also well worth observing that as AI becomes deeply conjoined in every walk of life, control of the algorithms that drive this machine intelligence will become a national security issue, particularly for those nations that lack access to the new data driven century.