Apple, The Top Acquirer Of AI Companies From 2016 To 2020


Rather that researching for a new technology, developing the idea, recruit the people, file the needed patent, maintaining the system, and trying to market product, companies that have the money, may rather buy another company that has them all, without breaking a sweat.

By acquiring new companies, bigger companies can also attract the best of talents in a given field.

And Apple is no exception.

As one of the largest tech companies in the world, the company founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, was the leading AI acquirer between 2016 and 2020

Apple’s been on a shopping spree in a bid to make its Siri digital assistant smarter, that according to a report from GlobalData.

Top AI acquirers from 2016 to 2020
Credit: GlobalData

In a web page on its website, GlobalData said that:

"The mergers and acquisition (M&A) deal-making landscape of the 2016-2020 artificial intelligence (AI) tech space was dominated by US tech giants, according to the deals database by GlobalData. Four of the top five acquirers in the space – Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook – are companies headquartered in the US, with Apple leading the race."

On its report, GlobalData found that the four tech companies had collectively bought 60 AI companies, with almost of half of which were acquired by Apple.

And according to Nicklas Nilsson, a senior analyst at GlobalData, many of Apple’s deals were centered on Siri.

"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 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."

For example, Apple acquired machine learning startup Inductiv to improve Siri’s data. Apple also acquired Irish voice tech startup Voysis to improve Siri’s understanding of natural language, acquired PullString to make Siri easier for iOS developers to use, and more.

And while Apple is said to have acquired more AI companies that others, it should be noted that the iPhone-maker doesn’t make all its acquisitions public.

What this means, the real number could be even higher.

The AI shopping spree reflects Apple’s wider strategy on developing tech via acquisitions. Apple's CEO Tim Cook revealed back in February that the company has acquired around 100 companies in just six years.

This is an equivalent of roughly one acquisition every three to four weeks.

"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."