Jack Nicas and Cade Metz writing in The New York Times:
Apple said on Tuesday that Mr. Giannandrea will run Apple’s “machine learning and A.I. strategy,” and become one of 16 executives who report directly to Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook.
That last point is the most important part of this article. Whether or not Apple is lagging behind competitors like Google and Amazon is a point you can spend a lot of time debating. But what’s less contentious is that there is a broad perception of Apple falling behind. That’s significant because such a perception can lead to, say, customers not even bothering with said features.
So having a single person to head up machine learning efforts and reporting to Tim Cook is a powerful message that the company is taking action on that perception. Moreover, poaching a high-level executive from Google–its chief of search, no less, which is still Google’s most prominent product–is also a big deal.
What will be interesting to see going forward is just how much control Giannandrea exerts over Apple’s machine learning projects. John Gruber wrote recently that “Siri is not a single monolithic project. It’s more like a system of smaller sub-projects.” And you could certainly argue that having a collection of sub-projects grouped under one broad umbrella isn’t necessarily a recipe for success. (iCloud, another Apple brand that encompasses several different systems and projects, has similarly struggled in the past.) But if this can provide some top-down direction, it very well might be exactly what Apple needs to revitalize the perception of Siri, if not the technology itself.