Benoit Dupin, Vice President of Amazon A9’s Search Technology group, has left the high-profile search technology firm to take up a job with Apple. Dupin’s profile from Amazon A9’s executive management website disappeared this week, and his LinkedIn profile has been updated to reflect that he began his position as a director at Apple this month.
Amazon A9 is Amazon’s Palo Alto, California-based subsidiary that focuses on developing Amazon’s marquee search and advertising functionality. While Amazon has become popular in the tablet, eBook reader, and now set-top-box worlds, its core business has, of course, been Amazon.com, and Dupin’s work on search powers the heart of the online sales giant…
Dupin is not the first high-profile Amazon A9 executive to leave for Apple: in 2012, then-CEO of A9 Bill Stasior departed to head up Apple’s Siri division. While Stasior left for Siri, Dupin, according to a source close to the matter, will be working on Apple’s search technology team for Maps, the iTunes Store, and the App Store. It seems likely that Dupin will be filling in for Cathy Edwards, the former CTO of Chomp, upon her departure later this month.
At the heart of Apple’s Maps, iTunes Store, App Store products is search. Customers search for songs, movies, apps, and locations constantly, and ensuring that search is reliable is critical to the experience of using those Apple products. Apple’s Maps app is notorious for unreliable search results, and Apple users have criticized the App Store for having an unwieldy search process.
Of course, Apple is taking steps to alleviate these problems: Maps will be improved significantly with iOS 8 this fall, and the App Store has been receiving search tweaks in recent weeks. With Dupin’s experience in search technology on a massive scale, it seems likely that Apple’s web-based properties will receive even more enhancements and improvements to search over the next few years.
Amazon A9 explains some of its search technology on its website:
One of A9’s tenets is that relevance is in the eye of the customer and we strive to get the best results for our users. Once we determine which items are good matches to the customer’s query, our ranking algorithms score them to present the most relevant results to the user.
Our ranking algorithms automatically learn to combine multiple relevance features. Our catalog’s structured data provides us with many such relevance features and we learn from past search patterns and adapt to what is important to our customers.
We strive for continuous improvement of our ranking algorithms. We continuously evaluate them using human judgments, programmatic analysis, key business metrics and performance metrics.
Of course, it seems plausible that Dupin’s management and engineering experience in search can be translated over to Apple. Perhaps the quote from Dupin on his old A9 profile sums up his potential benefit to Apple best:
A9 Product Search is a small group of remarkably smart people handling complex problems at scale, and enjoying it. We have a major impact on the search experience of millions of customers worldwide, as we help them find what they need.
As for A9, it does not appear that a successor to Dupin has been appointed. Dupin joins VP of Online Stores Bob Kupbens on the 2014 list of executives who have jumped to Apple from other major companies.