Tom Gruber was the last of the original Siri -team who still worked in Cupertino, but after the other two founders of the AI-assistant had already been wiped out at Apple, Gruber now also leaves. In his own words, he leaves to spend time in “personal interests in photography and protecting the oceans.” The timing can hardly be a coincidence.
Three months ago it was already known that Apple had snatched John Giannandrea from Google to become Apple’s new ‘chief of machine learning and AI strategy’ and it has started since the beginning of this month. No one can confirm that Giannandrea has decided to clean up immediately to make Siri better, but it does have all the appearances.
Another stumbling block that should be eliminated would be Bill Stasior, who has led the Siri team since 2012. His background in search at Amazon has ensured that this function has improved, but that has been to the detriment of the language capabilities of Siri. That conflict of interest within the team ensured that the development of Apple’s smart assistant was skewed, which was even more evident when the HomePod launched and people were not satisfied with the voice functionality.
Siri is behind Alexa, Google Assistant and even Cortana. Giannandrea’s experience is in natural language understanding: understanding commands that are not pronounced according to a very specific method. Precisely at that point, Siri often has trouble and that has to change. The chance that this can be done quickly is fairly small, but something has to change and with the departure of Gruber the old guard has disappeared and hopefully Siri can make up for something in the coming years.