Apple has poached an Amazon exec to take over its Siri department, according to a new report from AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher. The move brings William Stasor, a former AltaVista executive who was in charge of Amazon’s independent A9 retail search subsidiary to Cupertino, and indicates we’ll see Siri get some stronger search chops as a result, especially with regards to online retail.
Many originally suspected that Apple could be making a competitive play with search when it first acquired Siri in 2008, but at the time it seemed less like Apple was targeting Google, and more like it wanted to create a supplementary service that leveraged search as one of its components. Apple has been building Siri’s features out, however, to include handling local restaurant reservations, sports scores and more while bypassing Google on the web – and hiring an executive whose previous experience includes creating technology that powers not only Amazon’s sites worldwide, but also various other online retailers, seems like a pretty aggressive move towards making Siri better at finding things people are looking for, especially in the lucrative area of online shopping.
Siri’s founding team has mostly left Apple at this point, so it needed some fresh personnel anyways, but Stasor is a find that should definitely help Siri get over its continued growing pains. The man has an extensive background in natural language processing and machine learning, as well as info retrieval, which means we’re now much more likely to see Siri make some significant cognitive leaps.
Apple dipping its toes into both search and mapping, both Google strong points, is definitely going to make the less-experienced Mac maker look a little shaky in the early going. But Apple is playing to its user-base strengths in going after mobile e-commerce opportunities with Siri, and that should make for an interesting next couple of years as Google and Apple continue duke it out.