Apple Intelligence Will Infuse the iPhone With Generative AI

Apple is finally getting into the generative artificial intelligence game—with a little help from an unlikely partner in OpenAI.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Apple’s long-awaited AI reboot at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference in Cupertino, California, today. What the company is calling “Apple Intelligence,” available in beta this fall, includes a handful of features that will shape the iPhone, iPad, and Mac experiences in ways large and small. Apple also gave Siri, its currently limited voice assistant, a significant generative AI overhaul.

Apple also announced that it will incorporate outside AI models into its software, starting with OpenAI’s ChatGPT later this year, making clear that the experience will be opt-in only and won’t require a ChatGPT subscription. Siri will determine if a query could benefit from accessing ChatGPT, and then ask for approval to share information with the model. Apple company said it would tap into other AI models in the future as well.

Until now, Apple has been conspicuous by its absence from headlines about generative AI. Competitors like Google and Microsoft have rushed to embrace the technology ever since ChatGPT burst onto the scene in late 2022. Apple has apparently been biding its time, developing a comprehensive strategy that touches on many of its products and services.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, said the company’s new AI strategy will focus on privacy and security. In addition to stressing privacy-friendly, on-device AI use cases, Federighi introduced what the company calls Private Cloud Compute, a technology that claims to protect data even for more intensive AI tasks that necessitate the cloud. “Your data is never stored or made accessible to Apple,” he said.

Apple showed off Apple Intelligence across numerous apps. The technology can rewrite messages in Mail, generate new emojis on-demand, and summarize content in Safari. An AI refresh to Siri will make the assistant better able to handle complex spoken commands and better able to search for information even if a command is ambiguous.

Apple will also offer smaller generative AI algorithms that run on devices. It says these algorithms will be snappier and better protect users’ data. The company will face a balancing act in emphasizing privacy and security while also pivoting to greater use of generative AI.

It had been widely rumored ahead of WWDC that Apple was working on a deal with OpenAI. On the face of it, Apple and OpenAI would seem particularly unlikely bedfellows. Apple tends to move cautiously and carefully when delivering new products, emphasizing attention to detail, obsession with the user experience, and stunning design. OpenAI is best known for throwing a powerful but experimental new AI technology into the world and watching what people do with it.

The OpenAI deal could make a lot of sense for Apple though, as it seeks to jumpstart its use of large language models. Allowing Siri to tap OpenAI’s chatbot will ensure users can access the most advanced offering on the market while reducing its own reputational risk if things go awry with the most challenging queries. The strategy will also buy Apple time while its own AI models catch up to what OpenAI can offer today.

“With Apple’s announcement, all the technology giants have now staked out their initial strategies for generative AI,” says Any Wu, an associate professor at Harvard Business School who studies tech companies’ use of AI. Wu says that despite being relatively late to the game, Apple has a significant opportunity because of its vast user base.

However, Wu says that the cost of running powerful generative AI models along with managing their tendency to fabricate information will pose new challenges for the company. “Deploying the technology today requires incurring those risks, and doing so would be at odds with Apple’s traditional inclination towards offering polished products that it has full control over,” he says.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates, or keep up with our WWDC live blog here.

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