If Apple had a motto, it might be: don’t be first, be the best. Well, Apple certainly wasn’t first when it came to generative AI, but according to one of the most reliable Apple watchers, the company is putting serious behind-the-scenes effort into making up lost ground.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman claims anxiety levels are running high inside Apple about the way the company was caught out by the explosion in generative AI services over the past year. Not only has it seen startups such as OpenAI emerge to become multi-billion dollar businesses, but rivals such as Microsoft have undoubtedly gained an edge on Apple by quickly incorporating generative AI into its product line.
Apple hasn’t been sitting on its hands, mind. According to Gurman, the company has built its own large language model (LLM) called Ajax, which it’s been testing internally. It’s also assigned two very senior executives – John Giannandrea and Craig Federighi – to coordinate the company’s AI efforts. Now, the question is how soon can Apple integrate generative AI into its product lines and where will it appear?
A smarter Siri
The most obvious Apple product to benefit from AI enhancement would be the company’s voice assistant, Siri. Apple’s voice assistant was considered by many as second best to Amazon’s Alexa, but that could change if Apple were able to make the assistant capable of doing much more than playing music or switching off lights.
However, it seems Apple is also looking to bring AI to the same types of product where Microsoft has already established a lead. Gurman reports the software engineering teams are looking at how they can integrate AI into Xcode, the software used to create apps for iPhones, iPads and Macs. Microsoft already has GitHub Copilot, which can generate code from plain English prompts.
Similarly, Apple is exploring ways to add AI to productivity apps such as Pages and Keynote, just as its rival is about to launch Microsoft 365 Copilot, an AI assistant for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the other Office apps.
If there’s a glimmer of an opportunity for Apple, it’s that Microsoft is currently pitching Microsoft 365 Copilot purely at large corporates, with a hefty $30 per month, per user price tag for the AI features alone. And only businesses with at least 300 users can take advantage.
If Apple could bring similar capabilities to consumers and small businesses at a more modest cost, it might be Microsoft that finds itself on the back foot.
Other potential Apple AI projects include auto-generated playlists in Apple Music, something that Spotify has been offering for several months. Spotify even has its own AI DJ called X, which addresses customers personally and verbally introduces individually curated playlists.
Apple AI: when will it launch?
Gurman reports that a revamped, AI-powered Siri could be ready to launch in 2024, but that it could take longer before AI features are commonplace across Apple’s product line. There’s also a big internal debate about whether the AI should be cloud-based, with all the expense that incurs, or whether the processing should be handled on-device with more limited capabilities. The sensible answer may well be a combination of the two.
Generative AI is about more than just automating sales and marketing. It’s about making it more personal, too.
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