Report: Apple’s been snapping up AI firms to improve Siri

Apple’s been on a shopping spree in a bid to make Siri smarter, according to a new report by GlobalData.

The market research firm says the tech giant bought more AI companies than anyone else between 2016 and 2020.

The second biggest AI acquirer was Irish consultancy Accenture. But the rest of the top five were all based in the US.

Google grabbed the third spot on the list, followed by Microsoft and Facebook.

[Read: How to use AI to better serve your customers]

GlobalData found the four American firms had collectively bought 60 AI companies — almost half of which (25) were snapped up by Apple.

Nicklas Nilsson, a senior analyst at GlobalData, said many of Apple’s deals were centered on Siri:

Machine learning startup Inductiv was acquired to improve Siri’s data, Irish voice tech startup Voysis was bought to improve Siri’s understanding of natural language, and 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.

It’s not the first study to name Apple the leading AI acquirer. A 2019 report by CB Insights found that since the 2010 purchase of Siri, Apple had made more AI acquisitions than Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.

As the iPhone-maker doesn’t make all its acquisitions public, the real number could be even higher.

The AI shopping spree reflects Apple’s wider strategy on developing tech via acquisitions. Apple boss Tim Cook revealed in February that the company has snapped up roughly 100 companies over the last six years — the equivalent of roughly one acquisition every three to four weeks.

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Published March 26, 2021 — 19:57 UTC

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