Apple is rumored to have acquired privacy-focused AI startup Silk Labs, according to a Tuesday report from The Information. While the move may seem like just another example of big tech snapping up the hottest AI startup, beneath the surface, it signals something deeper:
The competition among tech giants over AI isn’t just an arms race —it’s a battle of philosophies.
On one side, companies like Google—despite taking PR hits over user privacy concerns—are focused on providing the most ubiquitous, accessible AI-powered services. Their bet: Ease of use and accessibility will outweigh consumer privacy concerns. Others, like Apple, take the opposite stance, betting a strong focus on privacy will continue to be a differentiating factor for consumers.
Apple’s acquisition of Silk Labs further signals the tech giant’s privacy-first philosophy. Launched on Kickstarter in 2016, Silk’s first product, the Sense smart-home assistant, was built on AI technology that ran locally on users’ devices. Sense never made it to market, but its underlying technology reflects the same privacy-centric philosophy that guides Apple’s approach.
Google’s most recent AI acquisitions, on the other hand, reflect a different focus. Two of them, Onward and Dialogflow, are cloud-based services using natural language processing to communicate with customers at scale. Google’s goals with AI seems to be in keeping with its broader business strategy—focus first on building the easiest-to-use ecosystem, rather than the most privacy-centric.
It isn’t clear if users will ultimately prefer Apple's or Google’s approach. A 2017 study by Deloitte found that, while the majority of Americans are still uncomfortable sharing their browsing and social media activity with companies, the number of Americans who say they don’t mind doing so doubled from 2014 to 2016.
Ultimately, the competition for AI dominance among tech giants might not be decided by whose technology is the most powerful. It could come down to whose philosophy resonates most with users.
Want to recruit better engineers? Open source your code
"Were you aware of the open-source software program at Facebook?"
That was the question James Pearce, former head of Facebook's open source program, asked engineers when studying why they joined the company. According to Pearce's presentation at O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, not only were two-thirds of Facebook's engineers aware of the open-source program before they joined the company, but half of the engineers said it “positively contributed to their decision to work for” Facebook.
Facebook isn't alone in this arena. Open sourcing code, regardless of company size, is one of the best ways to recruit top engineers. We analyzed the 30 most-applied-to U.S. tech companies of all time on AngelList and found that over half of them host open-source projects.
There is an art, however, to leveraging open-source projects as recruiting collateral—you'll need to do more than post a repo to GitHub and hope for the best. To get recruiting benefits out of open sourcing your code, you'll need to approach each project with a marketer's mindset.
Today’s episode of Product Hunt Radio is the largest gathering yet, featuring Arlan Hamilton, Christie Pitts, Bryan Landers, and Amiah Sheppard from the Backstage Capital team.
The crew, as they call the team at Backstage, walk through some of their requests for products, including waterproof headgear, online book clubs, and a way to bring the shared experience of live music online. Aspiring founders, take note!
They also talk about some of their favorite products, like an app that lets you experience live music in virtual reality, a service that lets you search live audio, and a way to add pictures, maps or quotes to your favorite podcasts. Keep reading.