The smart assistant competition between Apple, Amazon, and Google is growing every day. Until now, Siri has been focused on end-users, but a new acquihire by Apple is pointing to Siri moving in a different direction.

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TechCrunch reports that the small, 6 person startup that Apple has acquihired is Init.ai. The company was known for its customer service automation.

…a smart assistant for customer representatives to parse and get better insights from their interactions with users, as well as automate some of the interactions…

The report notes that there was no intellectual property included in the deal, but was instead about bringing the Init.ai team to Apple to work on Siri.

Back at WWDC this past summer, Apple announced a new feature for iOS 11 called Business Chat.

Business Chat appears to be Apple’s way of competing with Facebook and Twitter in making it easy for customers to communicate with brands. Both of those social networks have put a strong focus on such capabilities, but Apple hopes that its strong integration into Siri, Spotlight, Safari, and Maps will help it attract users.

It’s likely that Apple made this acquihire to move forward in building out this service. Interestingly enough, it may have been a blog post about Siri’s closed nature written by Init.ai co-founder Keith Brisson that grabbed Apple’s attention.

By coincidence, Brisson wrote an essay a year ago about how Apple was putting itself into a complicated situation versus competitors like Amazon, Google and Facebook by not opening Siri more than it has to date. He also acknowledged that because Apple follows a different philosophy and business model as a company, squaring that circle could prove to be one of its biggest challenges.

The acquisition is the company’s latest following computer vision startup Regaind last month.


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