Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘GenAI will redefine the future’

With Vision Pro out the door and the recent cancellation of work on a car, it’s becoming crystal clear that Apple is shifting huge resources into its forthcoming introduction of something like generative AI (genAI).

This is a big deal — so big that Apple CEO Tim Cook once again discussed it during the company’s most recent annual shareholder’s meeting.

“Later this year, I look forward to sharing with you the ways we will break new ground in generative AI, another technology we believe can redefine the future,” he said. 

Apple will redefine the future?

We know Cook seldom discusses unannounced products without good reason. Part of that reason is because he likely wants shareholders to know the company is investing deeply in this area.

Grappling with the popular misconception that Apple is behind in the AI arms race, he stressed the extent to which machine learning is already built inside Apple’s hardware, software, and services. “We believe it will unlock transformative opportunities for our users when it comes to productivity, problem-solving, and more,” Cook said.

It’s not the first reference to Apple’s ongoing AI adventure Cook has made. He last discussed the topic during the company’s Q1 earnings call when he said Apple has spent, “a tremendous amount of time and effort” developing artificial intelligence. A Bloomberg report has claimed the company is spending a billion dollars each year on the task.

The Apple CEO has previously promised to “share the details of our ongoing work in that space later this year.”

We all take this to mean at WWDC 2024 in June, when the company will also unveil iOS 18, macOS 15, iPad OS18 and software improvements across the rest of its products.

But think before you leap

Apple is not rushing genAI to market. Recent reports claim enhancements will first appear in Siri, Spotlight search, Xcode, and across the iWork suite. The company has made certain to explain that it believes the disruptive capabilities of AI demand that companies consider the wider social/economic consequences of introducing new AI-driven tools.

Cook also made a big claim, telling shareholders, “Every Mac powered by Apple silicon is an extraordinarily capable AI machine, and there’s no better computer for AI on the market today.”

Insanely great?

The reason Cook can make that claim is because Apple has designed its processors to include dedicated cores for standard computation and AI. The chips also carry a highly capable on-chip GPU.

That latter point will be very important as the company introduces its take on this tech, as the GPU will be used to handle much of the AI lifting — particularly if the company seeks to put this intelligence at the edge, rather than being completely reliant on servers. (Though Apple is also thought to be ramping up its investment in servers, so we have yet see the extent to which this will actually be genAI at the edge).

In some ways, Apple is now years ahead of rivals on processor design; competitors are still struggling to catch up. A wave of recent claims said Qualcomm’s still-unreleased Snapdragon X Elite Arm chip remains significantly behind Apple’s M3 chip on performance. But Apple’s M3 is already inside hundreds of thousands of mass market Macs, and the company is likely to introduce new iterations of those processors very soon.

Apple, meanwhile, is already researching 2nm chips.

What’s at stake?

Apple really doesn’t want to nurture the illusion that it has fallen behind in…anything. And as the company’s long journey to processor ascendancy shows, it’s quite willing to put in the work it takes to win the prize.

But for Apple, the opportunity to put a fire under iPhone and other hardware product sales with the injection of attention-grabbing AI is best captured by Morgan Stanley analyst Erik Woodring, who thinks these technologies will boost both iPhone sales and services subscriptions.

“We are getting more excited about Apple’s ‘Edge AI’ opportunity and continue to pick up signs that the company’s Gen AI efforts are accelerating,” he wrote earlier this year. “We believe Apple is one of six key companies that will benefit from compute being pushed to ‘the edge’ to enable new Gen AI-driven features not currently available on consumer devices.”

With that in mind, it looks a little as if Cook wants Appe’s shareholders to get equally “excited” at the looming iPhone AI prize.

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Copyright © 2024 IDG Communications, Inc.


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