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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…

According to his former profile on Amazon A9′s website, Dupin joined the company in 2007 and worked on search infrastructure, experience, and relevance before taking the more demanding Vice President of Search Technology role. Earlier in his career, Dupin held various positions at HP, Easyplanet, and Canon.

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.

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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.

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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.

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8 Responses to “Amazon A9′s VP of Search heads to Apple to fix up Maps search”

  1. themis333 says:

    Definitely a good step.

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  2. Wow, that’s bad new (for Apple) as the search technology on Amazon’s site has terrible heuristics and generally produces pages upon pages of useless and irrelevant results. More often than not, the best matches for the items you’re looking for are deeply buried or not presented to you at all. Let’s all hope the reasons for this are not Mr. Dupin’s doing.

    I usually hold up Amazon.com’s search as a fine example of technology failure.

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  3. Since the leaving of Dr. Cathy Edwards Co-founder of Chomp, who was in charge of on Search and Measurement Apple needs a new one. http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/25/cathy-edwards-co-founder-of-chomp-is-leaving-apple-on-april-11/

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  4. Amazing, Apple decided to hire from the one company that seems to do worse at search than they do. Of course, I suspect that a large problem with Maps’ search is the abysmal state of their places catalog and names. I have gotten to the point that I use Yelp to search and then switch to Maps for routing. Maps search is that bad.

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  5. I’ve had a feeling just looking at what is going on with Apple hires in a variety of fields. it might be very targeted search for integrated solution is where Apple is headed. Not general, but targeted, putting together various products(including 3rd party) to suggested options to meet customer inquiries. Why not do what you do best, take a bite out this “search store” purchases platform from sellers? This is a concept that is beyond search into configuration purchase or issue resolution. Powerful concept that could monetize search without annoying advertising.

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    • If indeed an Apple Search Store who would emerge as the target and potential partner? Amazon? not big enough. Who else! The Chinese marketplace Alibaba. After all, you are starting to see “purchase through Amazon account” online purchased. We all know these are the very same plans Apple’s been working on in China and elsewhere.

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