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Apple has scored a significant coup after recruiting Google’s former AI and search lead to head up its own research in the fast-developing sector.

John Giannandrea has been tasked with spearheading Apple’s own ‘machine learning and AI strategy’ as one of just 16 executives reporting directly to chief executive Tim Cook, highlighting the importance placed on its newest recruit.

Apple has been scrabbling to keep pace with commercial competitors in the race to build more intelligent software, falling behind Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home despite its vast cash reserves.

Giannandrea had served Google since 2010 after MetaWeb, where he served as chief technology officer, was acquired by the search giant. He will be replaced as head of AI and search by Jeff Dean, who has proved his commitment to the technology giant through 19 years of service.

Google invited Giannandrea with leading its search research in 2016 as part of a concerted machine learning push.