Apple is significantly ramping up its efforts in artificial intelligence, with a focus on integrating generative AI capabilities into its upcoming iPhones. This progression is evidenced by a series of strategic acquisitions, staff hires, and hardware updates.
The company has been actively engaging in the acquisition of AI start-ups, having acquired 21 such companies since the beginning of 2017. Its most recent acquisition was California-based start-up WaveOne, specializing in AI-powered video compression. The acquisitions include Drive.ai, which developed self-driving technology and was acquired for $77 million, PullString, specializing in AI voice assistant tools and acquired for $30 million, Laserlike, a provider an online search content engine acquired for $150 million, Vilynx, developer of video analytics tools acquired for $50 million, and Xnor.ai, a developer of machine learning software models for various applications for $200 million. Additionally, AI.Music and Voysis were acquired for their artificial intelligence technique in music and voice AI platform, respectively, while Curious AI was acquired for its process prediction, optimization, and control tools. Additionally, Apple has been intensifying its recruitment efforts in the AI field, with a notable emphasis on "Deep Learning" in its job postings and the hiring of prominent AI executive John Giannandrea from Google in 2018.
The tech giant has been conducting research and development in large language models (LLMs), a technology that powers generative AI products, with the intention of running generative AI through its mobile devices. The company is also making advancements in its chips, such as the M3 Max processor for the MacBook the S9 chip for new versions of the Apple Watch, to accommodate the demands of running generative AI features.
Apple's upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, expected to be held in June, is anticipated to be the platform for unveiling its latest operating system, iOS 18. Analysts believe this new software will be tailored to enable generative AI, with the potential for Siri to be powered by an LLM. Additionally, Apple has made breakthroughs in running LLMs on-device by using Flash memory and has also released an-source LLM called "Ferret" in partnership with Columbia University.
While Apple has been relatively discreet about its AI plans compared to its competitors, its endeavors in AI are seen as a strategic move to enhance the capabilities of its devices and to maintain its position within the tech industry.
The company's focus on AI aligns with its goal of providing features to its users and enhancing its ecosystem. This approach also serves to differentiate Apple from tech giants and reinforces its commitment to responsible and innovative integration of new technologies.