Published reports are indicating that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has agreed to buy Pullstring, a startup that helps customers publish voice apps, for an undisclosed amount. The startup, founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives, was last valued at nearly $164 million, according to PitchBook. Confirmation of the acquisition has been received from sources with knowledge of the deal.
Pullstring, previously known as ToyTalk, makes voice experience design tools that allow for visually mapping out conversations. The company also helps businesses publish voice apps for platforms like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. In the past, the company worked with toymaker Mattel to create its Hello Barbie talking Barbie doll and talking Thomas The Tank Engine toys.
The acquisition of Pullstring could be part of an effort by Apple to catch up in the voice assistant space. Apple currently accounts for about 4 percent of smart speaker use in the United States and its Siri virtual assistant is far more limited in features and products than its competitors. PullString’s Converse platform could create a way for many more developers to begin building voice products for Apple’s devices.
Amazon is the current leader in the voice assistant space, accounting for 63 percent of smart speaker use in the United States. Google holds second place with about 17 percent of the market. Both companies have invested considerably in getting tons of voice app makers to make a range of applications for their devices. It will take a lot for Apple to break their dominance of the industry.