According to a new report from The New York Times, Apple has hired Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, John Giannandrea. Tim Cook made the announcement in an email to employees, noting that Giannandrea will officially be the head of “machine learning and A.I. strategy.”
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Giannandrea will report directly to Tim Cook. He originally joined Google after the company acquired a startup called Metaweb, where he served as chief technology officer. Google acquired Metaweb in 2010. Just yesterday, Giannandrea was in the news for stepping down as Google’s AI chief, and we now know why he made that decision.
At Google, Giannandrea led the push to bring artificial intelligence to the company’s entire suite of products. He spearheaded the company’s Knowledge Graph feature, which intelligently offers direct answers to Google Search queries. He also worked closely on Gmail features, as well as the Google Assistant:
Mr. Giannandrea, a 53-year-old native of Scotland known to colleagues as “J.G.,” helped lead the push to integrate A.I. throughout Google’s products, including internet search, Gmail and its own digital assistant, dubbed the Google assistant.
Apple’s hire of Giannandrea comes as the company continues to lag behind its competitors in terms of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. Apple has generally put the privacy of its users ahead of invasive AI features, and in an email sent to employees announcing the hiring, Tim Cook touted that Giannandrea shares that commitment to privacy:
“Our technology must be infused with the values we all hold dear,” Mr. Cook said in an email to staff members obtained by The New York Times. “John shares our commitment to privacy and our thoughtful approach as we make computers even smarter and more personal.”
In addition to be a great hire for Apple, this is also a huge loss for Google’s artificial intelligence efforts. Giannandrea as instrumental in the company’s Google Brain lab and other AI and machine learning programs.