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Apple Falling Behind in the AI Arms Race.

The words “Apple” and “falling behind” are rarely been seen together.

When it comes to innovation. “Cutting edge” or “blazing a trail” were more likely phrases as they changed the way we use our phones, listen to music and even watch TV. In the world of Artifical Intelligence, however, Apple are lagging behind.

A.I is a buzz word in the world of innovation right now and Amazon and Google are stealing a march. Whilst Apple have just launched the latest incarnation of their best-selling iPhone, some argue it’s not the phone of the future, as Apple claim. For example, Mohanbir Sawhney, McCormick Foundation professor of technology says:

“While Apple’s newest iPhone offers some impressive hardware features, it does not represent the beginning of the next 10 years of the smartphone.”

Is this the case?

Well, for years the hardware – the Phone itself – has been as important, if not more so, that the technology within. Improved battery life, crystal clear displays, wafer-thin and waterproof handsets were the focus. That focus is now shifting to the device’s ‘brain’.

Machine Learning is key to the user experience of any search-based or interactive device and with years of working on improving search results for its customers, Google and Amazon are leading the way.

So, what does this mean for Smart-Speakers?

With Apple, Amazon and Google all jostling for space in the market the effectiveness of their AI technology could be critical. Already Amazon’s Alexa device offers AI-powered skills and increasingly natural conversation with its virtual assistant, whilst Google’s new Pixel 2 phone has AI integrated into the device such as real-time translation services. Apple on the other hand, who once led the virtual-assistant market with Siri, have failed to keep pace with Sawhney predicting that:

“Today’s smartphones will likely recede into the background”.

With its “Home Pod” speaker Apple has put the emphasis on “Sound Quality” and a speaker built for consuming music. With Apple’s track record in this arena, this focus makes sense, although Amazon and Google are attempting to compete here with shrewd partnerships (between Amazon and Sonos for example). Building an entire Eco-system suited to Artificial Intelligence and the technology behind it is a far more long-term, and challenging, problem for Apple to solve.

Currently, the AI in Smart Speaker devices is in its infancy but as the technology grows and more “Voice Assistant” devices appear on the market the power and implementation of their machine learning capabilities will be key to their success. Not only will it impact the way consumers interact with these devices but also the ability of the machines themselves to interpret activity and convert the hundreds of hours of consumer interaction into meaningful reports for advertisers and marketers.

With the power and potential of Machine Learning for Smart-Speaker devices being so pivotal to their potential success, Apple could find themselves out of the race before its even begun.

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