Apple found itself unprepared when AI tools like ChatGPT made a significant impact on the tech industry. However, the company is now gearing up to respond by developing AI features for its full range of devices. Additionally, there are insights into the future of the Mac, the introduction of a more affordable Apple Pencil, and the progress of the Vision Pro.
In the current landscape, one of Apple's most prominent endeavors is its response to the AI revolution sweeping the technology sector. The company has some catching up to do, having lagged behind as AI technologies like ChatGPT gained immense popularity. Competitors such as Google and Microsoft introduced generative AI versions of their search engines, offering responses that closely resembled human language. Microsoft also enhanced its Windows apps with smarter virtual assistants, and Amazon unveiled an AI-powered upgrade for Alexa.
Apple, however, made relatively modest AI improvements, with its most notable release being an improved auto-correct system in iOS 17. Apple CEO Tim Cook has acknowledged that the company has been working on generative AI technology for years, but insiders reveal that the sudden rise of AI in the industry caught Apple off guard, leading to a scramble to catch up.
Apple developed its large language model called Ajax and introduced an internal chatbot named "Apple GPT" to assess its functionality. The next critical step is to assess its competitiveness and determine how it can be integrated into Apple's products.
Apple's senior vice presidents responsible for AI and software engineering, John Giannandrea and Craig Federighi, are leading this effort. Eddy Cue, head of services, is also involved, with a collective commitment to invest around $1 billion annually in this initiative.
John Giannandrea's team is working on the foundational technology for a new AI system, revamping Siri to deeply incorporate it. A smarter Siri with generative AI features could be ready as early as next year, though there are concerns about the technology, and it may take longer for AI features to permeate Apple's product lineup.
Craig Federighi's software engineering group is incorporating AI into the next version of iOS, aiming to enrich it with features based on a large language model that hones AI capabilities through data analysis. These new features will enhance how Siri and the Messages app respond to questions and auto-complete sentences, similar to what competing services have done.
Apple's software engineering teams are also exploring the integration of generative AI into development tools like Xcode, which could accelerate app development. Eddy Cue's team is investigating how generative AI can enhance Apple Music and productivity apps, allowing auto-generated playlists and assisting with tasks like document creation.
There's an internal debate about deploying generative AI, considering whether it should be on-device, cloud-based, or a combination of both. On-device processing would be faster and more privacy-oriented, while cloud-based AI could enable more advanced operations. Apple may opt for a hybrid approach to combine the benefits of both.
The stakes are high, as generative AI is becoming central to the future of computing, and Apple aims to play a leading role rather than take a back seat.
Regarding product releases, Apple is facing supply shortages of iMacs and MacBook Pros ahead of its planned launch at the end of the month. The delay in updating these products is unusual in the era of Apple's in-house chips, with fans of the iMac waiting for over 900 days since the last model release. While Apple had originally planned to launch a larger, pro-focused iMac soon after the 24-inch model, cost concerns led to a change in strategy. Apple is now preparing to introduce an updated 24-inch iMac, and a product launch around the end of the month is anticipated.
Apple is also preparing its retail employees for the release of the Vision Pro, with training scheduled for the early months of 2024. The Vision Pro launch is expected to be the most complex in Apple's history, with flagship retail locations creating hands-on areas and other stores receiving demo units. Apple plans to assemble the Vision Pro in-store, similar to the Apple Watch, embedding bands, light seals, and optional prescription lenses.
While new iPads are not expected until around March, Apple has introduced a new low-end Apple Pencil with USB-C charging. Apple's next earnings report on November 2 is eagerly awaited as it will provide insights into the performance of the iPhone 15 models and the company's outlook for the holiday season. This report will offer data on early sales momentum for the iPhone 15, with a particular focus on its performance in China, where initial sales indications have been weak.
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