Earlier this year The New York Times reported that Apple had made a big new hire: John Giannandrea, at the time Google's Chief of Search and Artificial Intelligence. Today Giannandrea officially joined the ranks of Apple's leadership page on Apple.com.
As part of Giannandrea's employee profile, we learn his official title with Apple: 'Chief of Machine Learning and AI Strategy.' He reports directly to Tim Cook and oversees technologies related to Siri and machine learning.
Breaking the news of Giannandrea's new role, Matthew Panzarino wrote for TechCrunch:
Apple is creating a new AI/ML team that brings together its Core ML and Siri teams under one leader in John Giannandrea.
The internal structures of the Siri and Core ML teams will remain the same, but they will now answer to Giannandrea. Apple’s internal structure means that the teams will likely remain integrated across the org as they’re wedded to various projects including developer tools, mapping, Core OS and more. ML is everywhere, basically.
The last two years especially, AI and machine learning have been heavy focuses of Apple, particularly on iOS. Giannandrea is a major hire for the company, and while it may take some time for his impact to be seen in user-facing products, bringing together Siri and machine learning teams under this new leader is a key step toward realizing future potential in an area that's bound to grow more important as time passes.
Haje Jan Kamps, writing for TechCrunch:
Walking into my first ever meeting with a structural packaging designer, I started rooting around in my bag before exclaiming, “This is the sort of thing I want!” She leaned forward in her chair, delighted to have a customer with a strong guide, then groaned audibly when she saw what I had placed on the table: the packaging from my new iPhone.
“You can have anything you want,” she countered, “but if you want your packaging to look and feel like Apple’s, you’ll have to increase the unit cost for your packaging by 10x.”
Packaging is just one example — there are dozens — of why Apple is a rank outlier in almost every way. Or, put differently: Using the Cupertino-based company as your template for how to build a startup is not a great idea.
Kamps' piece is a fascinating exploration into why it's not so easy to follow Apple's lead – and why, in many cases, a company shouldn't even try. Some of the benefits that come with having a quarter-trillion dollars in the bank, and manufacturing products at massive scale, are completely unattainable for nearly every other company in the world.
It’s clear that Apple is building a video service. That much was obvious the moment it hired veteran entertainment executives Zack van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht. But you can’t flip a switch and create a streaming service—not even if you’re Apple. (You could buy one, but Apple has apparently chosen to build, not buy, at least for now.)
What has to happen between now and the day we all sit down and watch the first episode of van Amburg and Erlicht’s first major acquisition to play through our Apple TVs or on our iPads and iPhones?
Great article by Jason Snell on the challenges Apple is facing in building their video streaming service – which, if you've been keeping an eye on entertainment news, is perhaps the company's worst kept secret. (Jason Snell and Myke Hurley have a regular segment about this topic on their Upgrade podcast, which you should listen to.)
Unlike Snell, though, I have a hard time believing Apple will not offer their service on multiple platforms. If the company's goal is to generate more Services revenue with this product, it's only reasonable to expect as many people as possible could sign up for it.
Also, from a cultural perspective, I think it'd be wrong to have TV shows (and eventually movies too?) be locked to Apple devices. I was watching the Grammys last night, and there were plenty of Apple Music mentions (and ads) throughout the show; Apple Music, of course, is available both on iOS and Android, which meant everyone watching could access Apple's Grammys page and playlists. If Apple hopes to create shows that become cultural phenomena like Game of Thrones or Stranger Things, wouldn't it be best to ensure everyone can enjoy them?
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Alex Webb reported yesterday on a change in Apple's design team, confirmed by Apple PR with a statement:
Apple Inc.’s Jony Ive, a key executive credited with the look of many of the company’s most popular products, has re-taken direct management of product design teams.
Ive, 50, was named Apple’s chief design officer in 2015 and subsequently handed off some day-to-day management responsibility while the iPhone maker was building its new Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, California. “With the completion of Apple Park, Apple’s design leaders and teams are again reporting directly to Jony Ive, who remains focused purely on design,” Amy Bessette, a company spokeswoman, said Friday in a statement.
I don't know what to think about this. I never assumed Ive would leave Apple after Apple Park was completed. From the outside, we can only infer that his return to managing the design team is important enough for Apple to issue an official statement and remove Design VPs Dye and Howarth from the Leadership page.
Benjamin Mayo also raises a good point:
It’s hard to parse what this means because nobody on the outside really has a good idea of what the title change two years ago meant. Jony Ive’s elevation to Chief Design Officer felt like the first steps to his retirement with Howarth and Dye taking up the posts of lead hardware and software design.
Yet, Apple never tipped its hand that Ive was on the way out. I expected Howarth and Dye to slowly start appearing in keynote presentation videos, in interviews, and new product marketing. Ive would slowly fade from relevance in Apple’s public relations before he left for real. That simply didn’t happen. If anything, Ive became even more intertwined into Apple’s public image. He has done countless interviews and photo shoots in the intervening years.
Ingrid Lunden, writing for TechCrunch:
As Spotify continues to inch towards a public listing, Apple is making a move of its own to step up its game in music services. Sources tell us that the company is close to acquiring Shazam, the popular app that lets people identify any song, TV show, film or advert in seconds, by listening to an audio clip or (in the case of, say, an ad) a visual fragment, and then takes you to content relevant to that search.
We have heard that the deal is being signed this week, and will be announced on Monday, although that could always change.
Assuming that Apple keeps Shazam's standalone app around in the short term, I wonder if the built-in Spotify integration for streaming and saving songs will remain (I wouldn't be surprised if it gets pulled). I'm a fan of Shazam's iPhone and Watch apps, but it'd be great to have Shazam baked into Siri without having to ask any special song recognition command. Shazam's discovery and recommendation features could also tie in nicely with Apple Music.
Benjamin Mayo reports on a couple of changes found on Apple's website:
Apple has today officially transitioned away from its aging press portal in favor of the modern Apple Newsroom, which combines company press releases, photo coverage and other news into one place. All links to apple.com/pr now redirect to apple.com/newsroom.
At the same time, the company has also updated its executive biography pages with a fresh design update to fit in with the company’s recent website design trends and adopts the San Francisco typeface, finally retiring the Lucida Grande font.
These are both minor, but welcome changes. It made no sense for Apple to continue publishing press releases on both the legacy press portal and Apple Newsroom. The design changes to executive bios were inevitable as well; this moves things one step closer toward retiring all old design on the company's website.
Apple has updated its website with a page focusing on U.S. job creation. Perhaps the most significant number listed is the claim that Apple has created over 2,000,000 U.S. jobs when counting its corporate employees, suppliers, and work supported by the App Store ecosystem.
Much of the information given on the site is extremely detailed, such as the state-by-state breakdown that includes the following data for each of the 50 states:
- How many Apple employees work there;
- How many App Store-related jobs are funded there (as seen in the image above);
- The number of retail stores there;
- The number of suppliers based there; and
- A highlighting of App Store apps that were created there.
The data is fascinating and extensive, and worth checking out. Some of the interesting tidbits I learned about my home state of Texas are that it contains the second largest base of Apple corporate employees in the world, and that the indie game Reigns was developed here.
Good analysis by Ben Bajarin, who sums up various discussions I've read in my Twitter timeline lately about the quality of Apple's services and the company's approach to not collecting lots of data:
However, getting useful and good behavioral data is essential for Apple to make better products and services and, more importantly, compete with those services down the road. I’d almost prefer that, instead of Apple’s stance being not only to collect as little data as necessary and also to universally anonymize that data, they would simply say, “Trust us with your data. We will keep it safe and secure and we will deliver you superior products and services because of it.” I could also be satisfied with a hybrid approach where, for the most security conscious customers, Apple gives them the option to keep the existing privacy protocol as well as their differential privacy techniques, but also allow others to opt-in to giving them more data so that things like Siri, News, Apple Music, etc., benefit from that data and thus, deliver those customers a much more personalized and useful service. With some of the recent changes in iOS 10.3, I feel they are getting closer to exactly this scenario.
Ben refers to iOS 10.3's upcoming iCloud data sharing option – a new (opt-in) setting to share iCloud-related data with Apple.
This is a complex problem: it's still too early to understand the impact of Differential Privacy, and I don't think Apple's services are inherently terrible; but I also agree with the premise that by not collecting data, other companies may capitalize on Apple's users in the future thanks to smarter services. I'd love to get more details on what Apple is working on for iCloud analytics.
Dan M., writing on Medium about the state of Apple as a pre-mortem:
It is not easy to evaluate a company I love as if they have failed. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on Apple products, and devoted countless hours studying, admiring and defending the company. However, I started noticing too many uncharacteristic cracks, and I realised turning a blind eye would not help Apple.
I don't agree with all of the assumptions and conclusions taken for granted in this piece. For all its problems (above all, a slow rollout of third-party domains), I wouldn't call Siri "souped-up Voice Control". I don't feel comfortable with any third-party narrative around Apple's leadership and internal conflicts inferred from the outside. And, I'm not sure rethinking watchOS and iOS around "contextual triggers" would be the best idea for the majority of customers who, unlike techies, just want to open their 5 most-used apps quickly. In general, it feels like there's a disconnect between some of the realities painted in this story and how I see people in real life use Apple devices and software.
But, there is also a lot I agree with: the Apple TV analysis is pretty much spot-on, and Dan raises solid questions about Apple's approach to services and how their privacy stance may prove problematic in the future. Besides personal opinions and experiences, this article outlines potential problems with today's Apple fairly, and it's worth reading and discussing.