Apple goes on AI shopping spree to make Siri smarter

Apple reportedly bought more companies developing artificial intelligence technology over the past five years than anyone else. A prime goal is to make the Siri voice assistant smarter, according to GlobalData, the market-research firm that compiled a list of AI-related acquisitions by many companies.

The Mac-maker leads the world in these buyouts, but it’s in good company. Google, Microsoft and Facebook also top the list.

Siri is the reason Apple is on an AI shopping spree

Apple bought 25 AI companies between 2016 and 2020, according to GlobalData. And the reason is usually Siri.

“Apple has gone on a shopping spree in efforts to catch up with Google (Google Assistant) and Amazon (Alexa),” said Nicklas Nilsson, a senior analyst at GlobalData. “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.”

But the iPhone-maker is bringing in plenty of help.“Machine learning start-up Inductiv was acquired to improve Siri’s data, Irish voice tech start-up Voysis was bought to improve Siri’s understanding of natural language, and PullString should make Siri easier for iOS developers to use,” said Nilsson.

It’s not all about Apple’s voice assistant. “Apple also wants to make sure to keep its strong position within wearables,” opined the analyst with GlobalData. “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.”

These buyouts don’t generally make headlines. Apple certainly doesn’t announce them. So how many of them there’ve been might surprise people.

In good company

Several Big Tech giants based in the U.S. purchased multiple AI companies over the past four years.

“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,” noted Aurojyoti Bose, a lead analyst at GlobalData. “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.”

It’s not just the U.S., though. In second place was Ireland-based Accenture with 17.

Apple was the top acquirer of AI companies, with improving Siri generally the goal.
Apple was the top acquirer of AI companies while other US tech giants were also among the forerunners.

Source: GlobalData