Apple’s Siri Lead Shifted to Another Role
The Information is reporting (N.B. paywall) that Bill Stasior, who has overseen Siri since 2012, has “left that role.” Mr. Stasior’s LinkedIn profile still lists him as “VP Siri at Apple” and Apple has not issued any official statement. However, The Information says they confirmed this with five people “with knowledge of the change.”
The change was reported as a result of efforts led by John Giannandrea who was hired away from Google in April 2018 and promoted to Apple’s top management committee in December. Mr. Giannandrea previously oversaw Google’s search an AI efforts. Mr. Stasior’s move follows Siri co-founder Tom Gruber’s departure from Apple in July. The Information reported last March on the Siri team’s missteps, team conflict, and frequent management changes in March 2018. Management changes are a natural outcome of new leadership. Along with acquisition rumors of a leading voice app development platform, this change suggests Mr. Giannandrea’s first year has been busy and we may see some significant announcements around the time of Apple’s WWDC in June.
Siri is the Sleeping Giant in Voice
It’s not as if Siri has been a disaster. Siri was the first large scale consumer voice assistant and as of June 2017 claimed 375 million monthly active users. Apple also revealed last year Siri was available on 500 million devices worldwide. Despite some early challenges with scalability, Siri has emerged as the most-used voice assistant on smartphones in the U.S. It is a sleeping giant among voice assistant because of its large user base and loyal consumer following.
The criticism typically relates to the fact that Siri’s functional footprint has not advanced much in the past several years at a time when Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant were redefining what voice assistants could be. Two of Siri’s original founders even left Apple, founded a company called Viv to realize their full vision of a voice assistant with broad features, and was acquired by Samsung in late 2016. Viv’s capabilities were on display this past fall in Bixby 2.0 and it clearly is a more ambitious implementation than Siri’s current feature set.
With all of that said, the Siri-enabled Apple HomePod is now being sold in China which cannot be said of smart speakers from Amazon, Google, and Samsung. So, it’s fair to say Siri has a mixed record thus far, but a lot of potential. It will be interesting to see what Giannandrea and the new Siri leadership have planned.