Eric Schmidt: Apple Music's human curation is 'elitist'

Every now and again, executives from the world's largest tech companies like to throw some thinly-veiled shade in the direction of their rivals. Depending on who you ask, Eric Schmidt's editorial for BBC News can be taken as a stinging attack on Apple Music, which he calls "elitist" and out-dated. The Alphabet chief was writing about the benefits of artificial intelligence, specifically talking about how machine learning can benefit various projects including speech recognition and self-driving cars.

"In the future, we need to do even more blending of AI research with solving real-world challenges.

In the next generation of software, machine learning won't just be an add-on that improves performance a few percentage points; it will really replace traditional approaches.

To give just one example: a decade ago, to launch a digital music service, you probably would have enlisted a handful of elite tastemakers to pick the hottest new music.

Today, you're much better off building a smart system that can learn from the real world - what actual listeners are most likely to like next - and help you predict who and where the next Adele might be.

As a bonus, it's a much less elitist taste-making process - much more democratic - allowing everyone to discover the next big star through our own collective tastes and not through the individual preferences of a select few."

After a while, the executive gets onto the subject of a digital music service (quoted) and how "a decade ago," it would have required hiring a "handful of elite tastemakers" to build it. You'll get no prizes for guessing the approach that Apple took when constructing Beats 1, snagging elite tastemakers DJs like Zane Lowe to curate Beats 1's selection. When the channel launched, Eddy Cue spoke of his distaste for internet radio, saying that it was merely a "playlist of songs," and praising human curation.

Of course, Schmidt may have the excuse that he was only reacting to provocation, since Tim Cook threw a sharp elbow towards Google Photos back in June. The CEO was speaking at a privacy non profit about a product that took your family's photos and "sold [them] off for god knows what advertising purpose." The big lesson here, folks, is that even two of the tech world's most powerful people can't resist in a little bit of high school drama every now and again.

[Image Credit: AFP/Getty]