June 18, 2024


Will Apple be AI’s kingmaker?

(Image credit: Apple Hub’s X post)

Whether we like it or not, our phones, tablets, and other devices will have several AI features built into them going forward. Google is all in with Gemini. Microsoft is all in with its Copilot and investment in ChatGPT. Big Tech and everyone else was waiting for the other biggie to have its say.

The latest and arguably most-awaited entrant into the AI space is Apple. The company unveiled a suite of AI tools and services as part of its Apple Intelligence. It’s not Artificial Intelligence; it’s Apple Intelligence. It’s everything from an updated Siri to expected ones like proofreading e-mails and suggested replies. While some saw Apple being behind the curve on AI, will it now be the one to beat?


The company’s 2024 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) was its big unveiling party for AI. However, the company has been using AI for quite some time in other aspects. We’ve just not been able to see it. Previously, the company has been shy about using the term Artificial Intelligence (AI). But the technology has always been there in iOS and MacOS.

A simple example is machine learning in every corner of iOS to predict what a user looks for in photos, interacting with Siri, and other suggestions. To boost these capabilities, Apple made the Neural Engine which launched with the iPhone’s A11 Bionic processor. It was used for camera functions and Face ID. It’s all on-device, which means a user’s information is on their device rather than the cloud.

Even the Apple Watch and its WatchOS use machine learning to help track sleep, heart rate, and more. Some of the discussion around AI and Big Tech tends to see Apple lagging behind. That could be a narrow-minded argument since it would take into account things like ChatGPT and similar systems.

There’s precedence for Apple not being the first out of the gate on things. It released the iPod once other companies had MP3 players. There were smartphones before the iPhone came along. The company has only jumped in when it has something that’s customer-proven. When some of Google and Microsoft’s AI-based services have been under scrutiny and, in some cases, ridicule, Apple took the wait-and-watch approach.

So, while the past two years have seen AI rampage into public consciousness, Apple was quiet. Some took that to mean they were struggling to get things in order, but that wasn’t the case. With Apple Intelligence now out in the world, the company cleverly branded the technology to include its name. Can it now go all the way to the top?

VIEW: Can’t bet against Apple

The answer to what Apple was cooking up in terms of AI might not be flashy or inherently risky, but it’s rational. It’s a set of tools and capabilities for the masses. Some analysts have said the company got this right – it saw a hole in the marketplace and played to its strengths. It also recognised that much of the discussion about AI has been about sentient systems. That’s not what the company is interested in or even doing. As John Giannandrea, the company’s SVP of AI Strategy said, “We’re trying to help people in their daily life.”

The company has kept things simple. Upgrade Siri to perform multistep tasks in seconds that would usually take a person several minutes or shuttle between calendar and e-mail for better coordination. If someone wants to create original visuals, it’s better to have emojis based on descriptions of their friends rather than deepfakes. Also, its partnership with ChatGPT makes sense. Why spend billions on an AI clone when there’s no need to reinvent the wheel?

In some ways, the company has perhaps leapfrogged others by integrating AI at the granular level. This allows it to boast about an important aspect of all this – privacy. Keeping everything on-device allows Apple to talk about not giving away information to third parties or keeping it in the cloud. The company recognised the most personal device people have is their smartphone, and there are a lot of iPhones out there.

COUNTERVIEW: Too early to make a call

Apple Intelligence may have behaved well in testing. But there’s no way to tell how well it will perform once it’s out in the wild for millions of iOS and MacOS users. That means it needs to be on its best behaviour, something other companies have struggled with. It’s why some analysts believe, even with some setbacks, Google’s AI offerings for Android make it better than what Apple offers.

Apple won’t benefit from its AI offerings for years. Microsoft and Google’s AI tools are already bolstering sales for them. The former is ahead in the PC race with its recent copilot PCs with GPT 4.0 support. Concerning ChatGPT support, one of the primary concerns is how Apple’s AI will affect the discoverability of published content within apps on the web. Given Siri is becoming more adept at understanding nuance and context, there’s a risk that some content will be prioritised over others.

With Apple’s scale and influence in the technology industry, there’s a general concern about control and a potential closed ecosystem. The company has already faced heat from regulators for alleged anti-competitive practices. Outside third-party publishers will struggle to gain users if Apple makes it difficult for users to venture outside its ecosystem. After all, it took Apple several years to adopt the RCS messaging platform after complaints from Android users.

Reference Links:

  • Why Apple Is Not Rushing To Create A More Public Representation Of Its AI Capabilities – Forbes
  • Hey, Siri! Let’s Talk About How Apple Is Giving You an A.I. Makeover. – The New York Times
  • For Apple, AI Is Personal – Forbes
  • At Apple, AI stands for ‘Apple Intelligence’ – and it’s coming to everything – The Register
  • Apple Intelligence sure looks lame, but it shows how Apple can still win AI – Fast Company
  • Apple’s Biggest AI Challenge? Making It Behave – Wired
  • Apple’s AI Push: ChatGPT For Everyone, But At What Cost? – Search Engine Journal
  • Apple’s AI strategy is finally here. Now comes the hard part – Quartz

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Apple will be AI’s kingmaker.

b) Apple won’t be AI’s kingmaker.


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Modi 3.0 and employment

For the Left:

Reforms Need Intent, Not Numbers in Parliament