PullString, a San Francisco maker of technology that enables people to design and publish voice-activated apps, was acquired by Apple.
Axios, citing multiple sources, reported the deal is valued at around $30 million. In addition, there is about $10 million in “earn-outs” for the management of the startup including chief executive Oren Jacob, noted the report.
The aim of the acquisition is to help Siri perform better. With Amazon leading in the voice-activated speaker market thanks to Alexa and her slew of skills, Apple is trying to fight back. It also has to contend with Google, relegating it to third place.
Apple’s HomePod voice activated speakers haven’t resonated with consumers partly because of the hefty price tag. Apple also chose to focus on sound quality rather than use cases for Siri, which hurt the adoption rate. Amazon has taken a different approach with its Echo line of devices. It has kept the price point affordable to the masses and opened Alexa up to outside developers. Ditto for Google.
PullString, which got its start in 2011 and is made up of ex-Pixar executives, was first focused on interactive voice apps for toys, but broadened into internet-connected devices as they gained in popularity. It has raised roughly $44 million in venture funding including from CRV, Greylock, True Ventures, Khosla Ventures, and First Round Capital, reported Axios. The company has a valuation of around $160 million, noted the report. Apple did not comment on the deal, which is customary for the Cupertino, Califonia iPhone maker.
With its iPhone market facing saturation as consumers hold on to their smartphones for longer, Apple is making a big bet on voice as one of its growth engines. Providing developers with an easier way to write voice apps and a more open Siri combined could help Apple compete better against Google and Amazon, noted the report. But it could be an uphill battle given Amazon and Google are deeply committed to the voice app market, having already invested heavily in the area.