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June 24, 2024

Apple Shuts Down San Diego AI Team, Offers Relocation or Severance

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Jan 15, 2024

Apple has decided to close its Siri and data annotation office in San Diego, impacting 121 employees who have been given a relocation ultimatum to Austin, Texas or face termination. This move comes amid a larger reorganization of Apple’s artificial intelligence and machine learning efforts.

Background

Apple’s San Diego office housed teams working on Siri, the company’s voice-activated virtual assistant software, as well as data annotation operations. Data annotation involves labeling data to train AI algorithms and has become increasingly important as Apple expands into areas like self-driving technology.

The San Diego location originally belonged to VocalIQ, an AI startup focused on conversational interfaces which Apple acquired in 2015. After the acquisition, Apple set up an office there, using VocalIQ’s natural language technology to improve Siri.

Over the past few years, the office grew to house over 120 employees working on key aspects of Siri, including quality control and localization.

Office Closure and Relocation Ultimatum

On January 13th, Apple told the 121 San Diego-based employees that the office would be permanently closing. Employees were given a relocation ultimatum – move to Apple’s Austin campus by the end of April or leave the company. Those who choose to leave will receive a separation package.

Employees who agree to relocate will each receive a $7,500 stipend. Apple said it would provide relocation assistance and transitional accommodations.

The teams working in San Diego will be consolidated with similar teams already located in Austin. Apple said a majority of its broader data and Siri annotation team was already based there.

Strategic Shift for Apple’s AI Efforts

Industry analysts view the closure as part of a larger reorganization of Apple’s AI strategy. With new pressure from rivals like Google, Amazon and Chinese tech companies, Apple is refocusing its AI efforts for greater efficiency.

“It seems likely this reorganization reflects changes in how Apple thinks about product focus going forward, and how Siri fits into that,” said Mike Campell, an AI researcher.

Specifically, Apple may be looking to strengthen consistency and integration between its virtual assistant Siri and its products like the iPhone.

“Closer collaboration between the Siri and iOS machine learning teams could strengthen Apple’s competitive position in intelligent assistants for mobile devices,” said Susan Rivera, Principal Analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Impact on Apple’s Presence in India

Part of the San Diego team supported Siri internationalization and regionalization features. Their work enabled Siri to understand different languages, accents and locales.

With Apple targeting growth in India, improvements to Siri’s Indian language support have become an important issue. The closure of this specific team puts those efforts at risk.

“This team supported Siri’s multilinguistic capabilities globally, which suggests Apple may be slowing investment in regional Siri support,” said Anshu Sharma, CEO of local AI startup SkyNoir Labs. “That could hurt its ability to compete in non-English-speaking markets like India.”

What Happens Next

Employees have until the end of February to decide whether to relocate or leave Apple. If a majority of the 121 San Diego employees choose not to move, Apple may have trouble migrating knowledge and rebuilding capabilities in Austin.

Meanwhile, rivals like Amazon, Google and Microsoft will likely ramp up investments in conversational AI and intelligent assistants.

“With Apple seemingly dialing back its ambitions around broader Siri functionality, competitors may sense an opportunity to gain ground,” said Rivera.

The company does have substantial resources it can still leverage, including over 1,000 employees working on Siri globally and several recent AI acquisitions like Laserlike and AI Music. Only time will tell how this reorganization will impact Apple’s standing in the red hot AI space.

Key Details

Date of Announcement January 13, 2024
Location of Closing Office San Diego, CA
Number of Employees Impacted 121
Reason Provided by Apple Consolidation of teams for “closer collaboration”
New Location for Teams Austin, Texas
Date When Employees Must Decide on Relocation End of February 2024
Employee Stipend if Relocating $7,500

This covers the key details about Apple’s decision to shut down its San Diego office which focused on Siri and data annotation operations. 121 employees have been told to relocate to Austin by April or leave the company, as Apple looks to restructure its AI efforts. The move may negatively impact Siri’s internationalization capabilities, including support for the Indian market. Rivals may also seize on Apple seemingly dialing back its AI ambitions to gain ground in areas like intelligent assistants.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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