Apple wants to buy Shazam, we learned on Friday. The popular app can identify music, movies, TV shows, and even ads after listening to a short sample of the content in question using your device’s microphone. I suspect Apple wants to integrate this technology further into its devices, and in particular, into Siri.
If you factor in Shazam’s last round of funding, which valued the company at around $1 billion, a $400 million price tag is a steal.
The amount is likely a big reason Apple is making its move now. But I would argue that the other motive is the current digital assistant market, and in particular how far behind Siri is when you compare it with competitors Alexa and Google Assistant.
With the release of iOS 8 in September 2014, Siri gained the ability to tell you what song is currently playing, thanks to Shazam integration. The two work seamlessly together, but not much has changed over the past three years (sure, there’s Shazam for iMessage now, but that’s hardly revolutionary).
Content identification makes plenty of sense for Alexa: The user wants to identify a song, show, or movie so that they can then buy it on Amazon. Even ads could be identified and point you straight to the product being shown off.
But to get a sense of what Siri is really up against, look no further than Google’s current endeavors. The Pixel 2’s song identification works without you having to even ask your device what’s playing, while Google Lens on Pixel smartphones uses computer vision to help you do things like extract phone numbers, email addresses, and text from real-world objects around you.
Apple likely wants Siri to do what both Amazon and Google are working on: help the user figure out the world around them, and also sell them content. Siri should be able to extract valuable information for the user from what it hears and what it sees. It could also then let you add that song to your Apple Music playlist, watch the trailer, or even buy the movie on iTunes, and so on. That’s much easier to achieve once Siri has swallowed Shazam.
We, of course, have no idea what Apple will do with Shazam’s Android and Android Wear apps (the iOS, macOS, and Apple Watch versions are probably perfectly safe), but if you’re a user, I wouldn’t worry too much. Asking your devices to identify content for you is becoming the norm — If Shazam goes away, there are plenty of first-party (Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, etc.) and third-party (SoundHound is the most popular) alternatives to get the job done.
As for Siri, if this deal goes through as rumored, I suspect the assistant will be eagerly learning new tricks from the Shazam team over the next few years.