Apple has hired former Microsoft executive Sam Jadallah to give its smart home business an overhaul. The firm has been struggling to catch up to rivals Amazon and Google in this area, and the hiring shows that the company is serious about making inroads.

In addition to spending more than a decade working at Microsoft, Jadallah worked in venture capital at Mohr Davidow. He also previously ran a smart lock startup known as Otto that was backed by venture firm Greylock. The $700 locks, which had Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, had been referred to at the time as the “Apple for smart locks” thanks to their luxurious appearance and minimalist exterior. However, operations were halted just four months after their launch, with a buyer of the firm allegedly pulling out at the last minute.

Apple’s current range of home-geared products includes the HomeKit software service that connects to third-party products, along with its smart speaker, HomePod, which offers voice recognition and music, along with other features.

Apple trying to catch up to rivals

Right now, the smart home market is being dominated by Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. Until now, Apple has been sitting back and letting other businesses build devices to be used on its HomeKit ecosystem, apart from its HomePod smart speaker. For example, while Google Home and Amazon Alexa both have several smart doorbell options available on the market right now, there aren’t any HomeKit doorbells yet.

A recent report from Computer Intelligence Research Partners found that the HomePod had a very weak showing in the smart speaker market during the last quarter of 2018, accounting for just 6 per cent of the market. Meanwhile, Amazon Echo and Google Home took 70 and 24 per cent market share respectively.

Apple is hoping to change its fortunes this department and has made several positive moves recently. They poached the AI boss of Google to spearhead of their own AI efforts and improve Siri.

They also recently purchased the AI startup PullString, which specialises in creating voice-enabled toys. This could put them in the position to create connected living rooms. PullString is behind toys like talking Barbie and was founded by former Pixar executives. In recent years, they’ve shifted their efforts toward IoT devices. Apple’s deal with the firm, which was believed to be worth less than US$100 million, reportedly targeted technology and talent relating to voice apps.

Tobias Matthews

Tobias Matthews

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Writer at Fourth Source.