Apple hires former Google AI chief to lead machine-learning strategy

4 Apr 2018

John Giannandrea. Image: Steve Jennings/TechCrunch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Former Google executive John Giannandrea is migrating to Apple.

Apple has hired John Giannandrea, Google’s former chief of search and artificial intelligence (AI), as part of the company’s efforts to boost its AI arm.

The New York Times reported that Giannandrea will run Apple’s AI and machine-learning strategy and become one of 16 executives directly reporting to CEO Tim Cook.

Future Human

A commitment to privacy

In an email sent to staff, Cook said: “Our technology must be infused with the values we all hold dear. John shares our commitment to privacy and our thoughtful approach as we make computers even smarter and more personal.”

Giannandrea joined Google in 2010 following the search giant’s acquisition of Metaweb, a firm where he was serving as chief technology officer. He is a machine-learning expert and it is reported that Apple hopes he will aid it in its mission to catch up with competitors in areas such as natural language processing and computer vision.

Giannandrea is said to have left Google on Monday (2 April), according to The Information. His departure comes two years after former search chief Amit Singhal left the company.

Apple lagging behind

Many analysts view Apple as a straggler when it comes to large tech companies’ AI and machine-learning standards. Facebook, Google, Amazon and Microsoft employ huge numbers of researchers working across a number of areas, and are heavily involved in the wider global AI community.

Users have often spoken of what they view as Siri’s inferior quality when compared to Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Apple’s smart speaker ­– the HomePod – has received mixed reviews since its launch last year.

While Apple wants to explore building services with neural networks, it wants to do so without compromising the privacy of user data.

Jeff Dean, co-founder of leading AI research lab Google Brain, will now be in charge of Google’s AI team.

Giannandrea’s expertise is a major coup for Apple. Machine-learning experts are in high demand in Silicon Valley, with salaries often exceeding eight figures.

John Giannandrea. Image: Steve Jennings/TechCrunch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects