Apple to Disband AI Team: 121 Employees Given the Option to Relocate or Face Job Loss


In an unexpected turn of events, Apple has opted to close its Data Operations Annotations team, a group of 121 employees based in San Diego, responsible for advancing the company’s artificial intelligence initiatives. This team played a crucial role in enhancing Siri through voice service queries. The employees have been directed to relocate to Austin and merge with the Texas branch of the same team.

Originally consisting of contractors tasked with listening to Siri queries, the team transitioned to full-time employees in 2019 after the listening practice became optional for customers. The San Diego group focused on multiple languages, including Hebrew, English, various Spanish dialects, Portuguese, Arabic, and French. The decision to relocate was communicated by a top deputy to Apple’s AI chief, John Giannandrea, according to reports from Bloomberg, a decision later confirmed by Apple.

An Apple spokeswoman clarified that the move aims to consolidate its “Data Operations Annotations teams in the US together at our campus in Austin, where a majority of the team is already based.” She assured that current employees would have the opportunity to continue their roles with Apple in Austin. However, the condition is that employees in San Diego must decide by the end of February whether to relocate, with those choosing not to face termination on April 26.

Despite Apple’s commitment to San Diego’s growth, the consolidation of the AI team in Austin surprised many employees. Previous indications suggested a relocation to a new Apple campus in the region by the end of January, but the latest directive points to a move to Texas.

Numerous affected workers have expressed reluctance to relocate to Austin, citing concerns about eligibility for roles due to a lack of engineering backgrounds. Apple has informed employees about the option to apply for other positions, but details about future employment prospects remain unclear.

To facilitate the transition, Apple is offering a $7,000 relocation stipend to employees who choose to move to Austin by the end of June. Those declining the offer will have their roles eliminated, receiving severance pay based on their length of service and six months of health insurance.

While Apple had largely avoided layoffs during the pandemic, with only some corporate retail jobs and recruiters cut last April, this recent decision regarding the AI team may lead to the departure of certain employees from the tech giant.

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