Apple yesterday acquired Siri, a virtual personal assistant for the iPhone. No financial terms were disclosed, but a source tells peHUB that it was in the ballpark of $200 million.
Siri was a VC-backed spinout of SRI International, a non-profit R&D lab whose past hits include Nuance Communications and Intuitive Surgical. The person in charge of the group’s ventures, licensing and strategic programs is Norman Winarsky, who also sat on the board of Siri. So we’ve got five questions for him:
1. Siri was borne of the much-larger CALO project. What convinced you that this sliver was right for spinout and commercialization?
Our venture process innovates constantly not simple of technology, but on what are the disruptive technological solutions we can help provide. And, typical of any tech solution, you must have a market vertical that makes sense and where there is a terribly important need.
In the information technology space it was clear, even during CALO, that the concept of a virtual personal assistant was a great market opportunity. We originally wondered if we should go into the mobile phone or PC space, but we had one very telling offsite where we decided mobile because of the market pain. It’s so difficult to ask for Web services when on a phone – particularly if you’re in motion — whereas on a PC you can just type.