MASTERCLASSING

Apple reportedly buys voice app startup PullString

Tyrone Stewart

AppleApple has reportedly agreed to acquire Pullstring, a startup that helps companies with the design and publishing of voice apps for Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Internet of Things devices, according to a report from Axios. The deal is believed to be worth approximately $30m, plus around $10m in potential earn-outs for Pullstring’s management.

The move could be a significant one in helping Apple’s Siri digital assistant get closer in ability to Amazon’s market-leading Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Despite being one of, if not the, first instances of virtual assistant technology in the mainstream, Apple’s Siri lags way behind other AI assistants in terms of both adoption and quality. According to research released by Strategy Analytics in October 2018, Amazon’s Echo devices account for 63 per cent of smart speakers in the US, while Google’s Home devices make up 17 per cent of the market and Apple’s HomePods just the four per cent.

San Francisco-based Pullstring, formerly known as ToyTalk, was founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives. The company originally powered interactive voice apps for toys, working with toymakers such as Mattel, before expanding its remit. It’s raised almost $45m in funding and, according to Pitchbook, was most recently valued at over $160m.

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