Closure of the 121-person artificial intelligence team; What plans does Apple have in mind?

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Apple is closing its 121-person artificial intelligence team in San Diego to merge them with another team in Austin, according to people familiar with Apple matters.

Apple has told San Diego-based team members they have until the end of February to decide if they want to move, and if they don’t, they will be terminated by April 26.

Apple’s artificial intelligence group, which also has offices in China, India, Ireland, and Spain, is responsible for improving Siri’s voice assistant by listening to users’ requests and deciding whether to respond appropriately.

In the last few months, Apple’s market value has experienced a sharp drop, and reports indicate a drop in iPhone sales. On the other hand, the purchase of the new MacBook Pro laptop has not been as well received as expected, and Cupertinos seems to have entered a challenging time. The latest example of Apple’s transformation is the shutdown of the San Diego AI team.

An Apple spokesperson confirmed the decision to move the group, saying the company plans to consolidate its teams in Austin; Where most of the team members are already based. He added that all current employees will have the opportunity to continue working with Apple in Austin.

For San Diego employees, the transition came as a surprise. The AI team is said to have been working in an office that Apple rented in San Diego, But the company had just told employees that they would have to move to the new location by the end of January. Earlier this month, Apple distributed packing boxes to team members to prepare for the cross-town move.

The move could see dozens of employees leave Apple as most are said to be reluctant to move. Apple, which had 161,000 employees until September, has been able to avoid mass layoffs since the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

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The Cupertino tech giant said employees who want to relocate to Austin can keep their roles and receive a $7,000 relocation allowance. Those who decide to leave Apple will lose their role and receive four weeks’ pension, plus an extra week for each year of service and six months’ insurance.

The group in question was originally made up of contract troops who listened to Siri’s questions and made sure the answers were accurate. This practice raised privacy concerns and became optional for customers in 2019. The contractors were eventually fired and replaced with full-time employees.

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