Apple Bought the Most AI Companies From 2016 to 2020
Apple is the leading buyer of companies in the global artificial intelligence space, according to data shared today by GlobalData. From 2016 to 2020, Apple acquired the highest number of AI companies, beating out Accenture, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, all of whom also had a high number of AI acquisitions.
Over the course of the last several years, Apple has bought companies like Emotient, Turi, Glimpse, RealFace, Shazam, SensoMotoric, Silk Labs, Drive.ai, Laserlike, SpectralEdge, Voysis, XNOR.ai, and more, all with the aim of improving the AI and machine learning capabilities of its products and services.
Apple does not make all of its acquisitions public, so it's possible there are other artificial intelligence companies that Apple has purchased that have gone under the radar.
During Apple's February shareholders meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple had acquired close to 100 companies over the course of the last six years. "We're not afraid to look at acquisitions of any size," said Cook. "Focus is on small, innovative companies that complement our products and help push them forward."
According to GlobalData analyst Aurojyoti Bose, growing competition in the AI space has led to an acquisition spree.
"Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook collectively undertook 60 acquisitions in the AI tech space during 2016-2020 while Apple led the race with 25 acquisitions. AI has remained a key focus area for tech giants and growing competition to dominate the space has resulted in an acquisition spree among these companies."
Many of Apple's acquisitions have been aimed at improving Siri. Apple purchased Inductiv to improve Siri's data, while Voysis was acquired to improve Siri's understanding of natural language. PullString, meanwhile, makes it easier for iOS developers to use Siri features in apps.
"Apple has gone on a shopping spree in efforts to catch up with Google (Google Assistant) and Amazon (Alexa). Siri was first on the market, but it consistently ranks below the two in terms of "smartness", which is partly why Apple is far behind in smart speaker sales. Apple also want to make sure to keep its strong position within wearables. It is the dominant player in smartwatches. The acquisition of Xnor.ai last year was made to improve its on-edge processing capabilities, which has become important as it eliminates the need for data to be sent to the cloud, thereby improving data privacy."
Other acquisitions are aimed at future products, like Drive.ai, a self-driving startup that Apple purchased in 2019, presumably to further its autonomous car development project.
All of the above listed companies are also on an "AI talent-hiring spree" and collectively posted more than 14,000 jobs in the AI space in 2020.