News & Analysis

Apple is into AI, Doesn’t Call it so

Of course, we aren’t sure if this was a response in exasperation from Tim Cook. Read on to find out…

Ever since ChatGPT appeared on the scenes a year ago, public perception (or should we say analysts’ perception) has limited all technology innovation to include artificial intelligence (AI). And Apple has borne the brunt of this notion that it’s not really AI savvy, an impression that Tim Cook seems exasperated with to claim that lots of stuff they do isn’t labeled AI, but actually is. 

While some may find this claim to be facetious, others who aren’t exactly turned on by AI and its impact on native intelligence may tend to agree with Cook. In their Q4 earnings call, Cook took pains to point out that technology developments highlighted by Apple weren’t possible without AI, while noting that several upgrades weren’t perceived as such by their customers. 

What you call AI isn’t called that by Apple

“We label them as to what their customer benefit is. But the fundamental technology behind it is AI and machine learning,” Cook said during the earnings call when analysts badgered him over Apple’s perceived coldness towards what the rest of the world believes to be the next best tech innovation that could change the way humans interact. 

He specifically took up some new iOS17 features such as personal voice and live voicemail as examples of AI innovation and also confirmed that Apple was indeed abreast of the GenAI possibilities and was working on new solutions. Cook also took a swipe at competition by stating that these new features weren’t labeled as AI and that was by design. 

Personal Voice and Live Voicemail are examples

And there’s some merit to his statements as Personal Voice, an accessibility feature that creates an automated voice of the user, is meant for users who are facing speech defects due to health conditions. Such folks can spend 15 minutes reading text prompts into the microphone and then the audio is processed locally on Apple devices using machine learning techniques. 

Similarly, Live Voicemail displays a live transcription of a voicemail for users and at the heart of both these features lies AI, Cook said.  “And then, you can go all the way to the lifesaving features on the watch and the phone like fall detection, crash detection, ECG on the watch. These would not be possible without AI,” he said.

Cook confirms that Apple’s indeed big on AI

Having first set the record straight on Apple’s AI narrative, Cook went on to confirm that they were also developing GenAI technologies, but did not specify how or what it was or where these would be used in their product offerings. Not surprising, given that Apple seldom shares details of their R&D efforts. They merely launch them. 

All he chose to say was that Apple was indeed investing in GenAI and doing so quite a bit and responsibly too. He said future product advancements would prove the point and appeared to be taking another swipe at the existing Big Tech players who have announced billions of dollars spent on Gen AI without actually articulating how they hope to make these innovations from developing or carrying on human biases. Are you listening, Microsoft and Google? 

Recent media reports indicated that Apple had considerably expanded its AI budgets to deploy teams working on large language models. Our team here actually believes that Apple could soon be able to automate tasks via Siri as it gains new AI skills. Imagine being able to take a picture of your friend and then emailing it to her, without having to physically do so! 

As for the standard smarts that AI seems to be generating, it’s only to be expected that the next iOS version could add features to Siri and the iMessage that helps in answering queries, completing sentences and other such tasks that Google and Microsoft have incorporated. 

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