“Earlier this week, a small startup called Init.ai announced that it soon would be discontinuing its service — 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 — because the team was (according to a notice on the site) ‘joining a project that touches the lives of countless people across the world,'” Ingrid Lunden reports for TechCrunch. “TechCrunch has now learned what that project is: the team is joining Apple.”
“They are becoming a part of the group working on Siri,” Lunden reports. “This is not a straight acquisition, but more of an acqui-hire, so Apple didn’t have a comment to offer along the lines of the one it made last week. Specifically, there is no IP coming over and no indication of whether any parts of its existing services will be used by Apple, and no existing customers.”
“It’s not known exactly how many of the Init.ai team are joining Apple but the startup was not very big — just six people, according to LinkedIn,” Lunden reports. “Apple has started to build bridges for how businesses can better use its communication tools. Specifically, with iOS 11 the company has launched Business Chat, where users can open iMessage windows in Safari, Maps, Spotlight and Siri (as well as iMessage itself) to initiate conversations with businesses. Business Chat conversations are not with bots but with humans, and they are not voice-based chats but text-based ones. That happens to be where Init.ai was building tools, too.”
Read more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Note: In July 2016, Init.ai co-founder Keith Brisson wrote on the company’s blog:
At their WWDC  conference, Apple announced its entry in the conversational interface space. But in distinct Apple style, the company did it a perplexing way. In both its Siri and Messages announcements, Apple offered a hint of open integration, but in unexpected ways that were not comprehensive. The primary reason for the limitations was not user experience considerations, for which Apple frequently is excused for its restrictions. Instead, Apple faces serious strategic threats that prevent that from embracing conversational interfaces.
Apple’s Siri announcements were simultaneously exciting, disappointing, and stunningly predictable…
The Apple Messages announcement was similarly predictable in its implementation strategy. Like Siri, third party enhancements to Messages require users to install conventional iOS apps. These apps will enhance the functionality of the Messages app running on their phone. For example, as you are typing to another person in Messages, you might get access to a relevant app embedded within Messages app. This is convenient but this most definitely not the same type of conversational interaction that Microsoft, Facebook, and Google are headed towards.
If Apple were to embrace conversational interaction the same way other large companies have, it would open iMessage itself to developers in addition to extending the Messages app. There was speculation that Apple might open iMessage to third-party developers and might even extend it beyond just Apple devices. Neither happened…
The unresolved question is where Apple goes from here. Their competitors are unencumbered by the same business model considerations and have a head start in the relevant expertise. Apple seems to be publicly marketing that its differentiator is its respect for privacy and protecting. But in a world where privacy seems to matter less and less to consumers, only time will tell whether this strategy will be sufficient.
Read more in the full article – very highly recommended – here.