September 7, 2012

Apple Dumping Audience, Becoming More Independent

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Apple doesn´t enjoy depending on other companies for products and services they could otherwise produce themselves. For instance, Tim Cook said during this year´s All Things D conference that Apple doesn´t mind letting other factories build their phones because they feel as if they can do it better than Apple ever could.

In this instance, Apple is fine with leaning upon another company, so long as they have the right contracts in place to ensure they get the better end of the bargain. On the other hand, the new Maps app in iOS 6 will finally kick Google out the door as Apple brings all of the backend data in house, completely running the app by themselves.

They no longer needed to rely on Google for this backend heavy lifting and are finally doing it largely on their own (with a little help from TomTom).

Suffice to say, Apple feels at their best when they can control as much, if not all, of the entire process as they can. Apple wants to win on their own and fail on their own, and bringing in other partners doesn´t just complicate matters, it forces them to share the stage.

In another push (albeit a small one) towards independence, Apple may be using their own noise filtering technology in the latest iPhone. Currently, Digital signal processing company Audience is behind this technology, which is used to help Siri better understand what the user is saying to her. According to a press release on Thursday, Audience will no longer provide this noise filtering technology for Apple´s iPhone.

“Audience sells processors and licenses its processor IP to Apple Inc. and certain of its subsidiaries (collectively, OEM) for inclusion in the OEM's mobile phones pursuant to a Master Development and Supply Agreement (MDSA),” read Audience´s statement to investors.

“Audience now believes that it is unlikely that the OEM will enable Audience's processor IP in its next generation mobile phone. Audience is not aware of any intended changes by this OEM to its use of Audience's processors or processor IP in prior generations of the OEM's mobile phones.”

According to a piece by Ars Technica, we first discovered Apple was using technology built by Audience in a February SEC filing. Audience´s contribution to the iPhone 4S–called earSmart– was even built directly into the A5 processor, giving some extra oomph to the noise filtering process.

In fact, many believe this is one reason why Apple first limited the use of Siri to the iPhone 4S, as no other device had this technology built in.

"The Siri software needs to cache data, needs to access a big dataset at wide bandwidth, and needs a big processor to crunch all of the numbers," said Norman Winarsky, Siri´s original co-founder, speaking to 9 to 5 Mac last October, one day before the 4S was revealed.

"When we originally released Siri for the iPhone 3GS, we had to perform all kinds of optimizations and shortcuts to get it to work efficiently. All I can say is that it will likely run much better on a faster phone."

Of course, Siri will soon be arriving on third generation iPads whenever iOS 6 is released, likely in the next 12 days or so.

Though it may not be a significant change, this parting of ways with Audience is another way in which Apple can completely control the entire process and win on their own terms.