It would appear that Siri will be getting a little more searchy. As AllThingsD reported this afternoon Apple has hired William Stasior, the guy who took over at Amazon’s search engine A9 after Udi Manber left for Google. While Siri isn’t a search engine it can operate like one from a user perspective.
With Stasior’s hire Apple may be signaling it wants to go further in that direction.
Stasior has an impressive search resume. He has worked at A9 since 2006; before that he was at Alta Vista as the “director of advanced development.” There he “led the engineering team responsible for developing AltaVista’s next generation search technologies. Areas of expertise include information retrieval, machine learning, statistical analysis, natural language processing, and advanced user interfaces.”
Clearly Stasior knows the search space well and will be bringing that experience to Siri product development.
Collectively we all now get to speculate on exactly how “searchy” Siri will ultimately become. It’s still very unlikely that Apple will attempt to build a traditional search index and go directly at Google. Rather we’re likely to see more structured data and vertical results fed into Siri.
Siri doesn’t always work well (some people have expressed serious disappointment with Siri). But when it does (and there’s a good data partner) Siri can offer a great experience. With an improved user experience and broader data set Siri could, over time, reduce query volumes otherwise going to Google — especially in local. But Siri has a way to go before it can replace Google for other than a few things.
I wonder to what extent Stasior will be involved with the task of trying to improve Apple Maps and local search on the iPhone as an adjunct of his Siri responsibilities.
A survey I conducted earlier this year shows that most people don’t search the web with Siri. However 11 percent of the survey respondents in this case said they did use Siri “to search the web.” If Siri improves that number will probably grow.
Q: Which of the following do you use MOST OFTEN to search the web on your phone?
Source: Opus Research, June 2012 (n=503 US iPhone 4S users)