For years, fixtures in the Bay Area tech industry have been migrating to Seattle in search of comparable jobs with a lower cost of living.
But as far as we know, this is the first time an AI personality has made that move.
Apple’s virtual assistant Siri is putting down roots in Seattle where the Cupertino, Calif., company just announced plans to establish a 2,000-person campus. Apple is staying mum on what projects the expanded Seattle team will work on. However, job listings reveal that Siri will be a major focus for Apple in Seattle, building on its existing focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence in the city.
With Amazon’s headquarters a short walk away, and Microsoft just a drive across the bridge, Apple’s move could position Seattle as the voice assistant capital of the world, with significant engineering operations for Siri, Alexa and Cortana all housed within the region.
A GeekWire analysis of Apple’s open job listings show 32 available positions that mention Siri in Seattle out of 50 total open jobs in the city. Across Apple’s offices, there are 245 job openings focused on Siri. That means roughly 13 percent of Apple’s Siri openings are in Seattle, the largest presence for Siri outside of Apple’s headquarters and engineering centers in Silicon Valley.
Several Seattle listings were posted Monday, the same day Apple unveiled the site of its new campus in the shadow of the Space Needle. One of the new openings is for a senior engineering manager for Siri Maps who “will lead and grow a team of software engineers and machine learning specialists” and “shape upcoming products from Apple,” according to the listing.
In another job listing for a software engineer in Seattle, Apple says, “We are looking for extraordinary individuals to lead and extend the software infrastructure, algorithms and APIs that let Siri move, understand, plan, learn, speak, and remember.”
That role is on the Siri Kernel team, which maintains and improves on “core components” of the virtual assistant.
Siri has good reason to settle in Seattle, if only to find more peers than she has in Silicon Valley. It makes sense from a recruiting perspective, too. Amazon was a pioneer with its Echo smart speaker and Alexa, the virtual assistant that powers the popular device. Many of the engineers who established Amazon as a leader in the space are still in Seattle, and no doubt some will be eyeing those open Apple jobs.
But Amazon’s chief smart speaker rival, Google, doesn’t seem as eager to mine the region’s talent. None of Google’s Seattle job openings mention its Google Assistant.
At the Seattle event Monday, Apple’s Kristina Raspe said the new campus would become a “key engineering hub” for the company.
Apple will be hiring for “new positions distributed across many specialty engineering fields including hardware, software technologies, and services,” she said. Raspe went on to say that the company is “actively recruiting for many of our teams including engineering positions for iCloud.”
Seattle is home to cloud leaders Amazon and Microsoft, plus Google’s cloud operation, so it’s no surprise Apple is eager to get in on the action.
“We know there is so much talent in Seattle and we can’t wait to see how this community spurs our innovation,” Raspe said.
Apple established its first formal engineering office in Seattle with its 2014 acquisition of Union Bay Networks. Two years later, Apple acquired Seattle startup Turi, establishing the city as its hub for developing artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.
Following those acquisitions, Apple has been steadily growing in Seattle at its Two Union Square office tower. Apple has 500 employees in Seattle and plans to add another 200 by the end of the year. It will grow to 2,000 over the next five years, according to Raspe. Apple has been hiring for Siri in Seattle for a few years already but the company’s expansion plans mean there will soon be room to dramatically grow that team.