Siri’s Nemesis Evi Relaunches, Recruits Berkowitz From Wolfram Alpha, Opens US Office

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We saw what happened yesterday with the Siri announcements from Apple. Clearly they see it as core to their strategy and its deep integration inside iOS reflects its increasing importance. Plenty of other players see the importance of voice-driven Q&A-plus-actions and a few attempts are roaming around on Android, such as Vlingo. However, the Siri-like app to beat right now is Evi. It launched in late January and soon had Apple threatening to pull it from the app store, although it was later left alone. Since then Evi – which works on any iOS device – has appeared on Android and the company behind it has a bunch of new moves out today.

First up: new numbers. Since its January launch Evi has garnered 1 million downloads across iOS/Android, a significant number, in part as a result of gaining the top slot on the iTunes App Store in both the U.S. and U.K. at one point.

That success means its search engine maker, True Knowledge, is dumping its old name in favour of Evi and its more consumer-friendly branding. The True Knowledge site is currently serving 4M users in 10M impressions a month, all of whom will now be hitting Evi.com.

Evi has also hired a big gun into the company to scale in the US. Barak Berkowitz, a Silicon Valley-based serial entrepreneur who was most recently managing director of Wolfram Alpha and CEO of early blogging leader Six Apart now becomes CEO and will be based out of Palo Alto.

In addition Berkowitz has run consumer marketing at Apple, as working in the Advanced Technology Group on a digital personal assistant that became General Magic. He also co-founded and became president of OmniSky which went public in 2000 and was later was acquired by Earthlink. So clearly experienced in scaling companies and products.

“Throughout my career the theme of a hand held virtual assistant keeps coming up… Evi can do all we imagined back then and more,” he told us.

Current CEO and co-founder William Tunstall-Pedoe will become Evi’s Chief Product Officer and will continue to concentrate on product leadership.

Evi’s latest enhancements means it has new phone control features on both the iOS and Android platforms. So you can ask Evi to initiate a phone call or send a text for instance.

Tunstall-Pedoe told us Evi will be adding more features and capabilities and “establishing business partnerships that will help extend her utility” in due course. “Q&A is part of Evi but it’s also about getting things done, not just pure information,” he said.

Cambridge, UK-based Evi’s main investor is London-based Octopus Ventures.