Expect to hear a lot more about Bill Stasior, the executive Apple just hired away from Amazon to fix its Siri voice-recognition service.
Stasior ran one of Amazon’s stealthiest businesses—its A9 search and advertising unit.
While A9’s headquarters loom over downtown Palo Alto, Calif. and it’s been hiring search and advertising engineering talent like mad, you probably haven’t heard much about that.
That’s because A9 suffered an embarrassing defeat when it tried to take on Google head-on with an Amazon-powered search engine a decade ago. Despite giving discounts on Amazon.com to A9 search users, it failed to catch on, and its leader, Udi Manber, ended up defecting to the enemy.
Stasior took over from Manber and quietly reinvented A9 as a provider of technology behind search and advertising on Amazon. With that jujitsu approach, he created one of the few effective threats to Google, which makes most of its profits off of the same kind of commercial searches that Amazon specialises in.
Now he could well do the same at Apple.
Apple’s biggest weakness is in Internet service. A strategic vulnerability where Amazon and Google, two Web-native businesses with gargantuan scale and armies of engineers, have pressed their attack on the iPhone and iPad.
Stasior’s initial brief, according to AllThingsD, is to revamp Siri, the voice-recognition software in iPhones. That’s a key initiative, since Google’s equivalent for Android smartphones, Google Now, draws on all of Google’s strengths in data and computation.
Siri is only as good as the data it draws on. To date, Apple has drawn on partners for that data—including Google for Web search results.
But Stasior also shores up a crucial weakness in Apple’s leadership. Its senior executives are specialists in three main areas: hardware engineering, software engineering, and supply-chain management. Only one, Eddy Cue, the champion of iTunes, has a strong Internet background, and he has worked at Apple for 23 years.
If Stasior shows that he can fit in with Apple’s quirky culture and demonstrate success with Siri, he could end up running far more of Apple’s increasingly important Internet operations.
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