Apple is ramping up AI acquisitions and recruitment ahead of rumored Siri 2.0 reveal at WWDC 2024

Siri presenting 'Go ahead, I'm listening' in text on iPhone screen.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Siri feels outdated and unresponsive compared to the large language model-based chatbots like ChatGPT Voice, but that could be about to change thanks to a growing number of AI-related acquisitions and job vacancies from Apple.

Rumors have circulated for some time that the iPhone maker is creating a new GPT-powered version of Siri to launch at WWDC 2024 in June. The fact Apple has made more AI acquisitions than its competitors is another hint that this change is coming, according to an FT report.

Since 2017 Apple has acquired 21 AI start-ups, including California-based AI video compression company WaveOne last year. Experts predict another major acquisition coming this year and almost half of Apple's AI-related job ads are for generative AI-related roles.

What is Siri 2.0 and how will it be different?

Siri 2.0 will be conversational, able to respond to complex queries and likely have much deeper integration across Apple’s product range compared to the current generation voice assistant.

Apple isn’t alone in looking towards generative AI to improve the quality of its chatbot. Google is expected to unveil a version of Assistant powered by its Gemini large language model later this year, and Amazon is launching Alexa Plus powered by its own LLM for a monthly subscription.

The big difference is that Apple is unlikely to launch a GPT-powered Siri unless it can do so on-device, as in not sending any personal information to the cloud. 

Apple has already released research showing methods to more efficiently run these models on an iPhone through better memory management, and it already utilizes the onboard neural engine to train synthetic voices, handle transcription and other AI tasks.

How well is Apple doing in the AI arms race?

Watching from the outside it has sometimes felt like Apple is behind the curve on the rollout of generative AI across its products. But as CEO Tim Cook said on an earnings call last year: “We view AI and machine learning as fundamental technologies, and they're integral to virtually every product that we ship.”

Google, Microsoft and Meta make a big deal out of their use of generative AI, labeling products as powered by AI. For Cook, the branding of AI is more about what AI can bring to a product than making artificial intelligence the product itself. 

With more AI-related acquisitions than its competitors, a growing pool of researchers focused on deep learning and $162.1 billion in cash on hand — I wouldn’t count Apple out of the race. 

We view AI and machine learning as fundamental technologies, and they're integral to virtually every product that we ship.

Tim Cooke, Apple CEO

We’ve recently seen a flurry of activity from the Apple research team including its own multimodal AI model called Ferret that it made open-source, technology that lets LLMs run on an iPhone more efficiently and other generative AI tools made widely available.

Speaking to the FT, analyst Daniel Ives at Wedbush Securities said: “They are getting ready to do some significant M&A,” adding that.

“I’d be shocked if they don’t do a sizeable AI deal this year, because there’s an AI arms race going on, and Apple is not going to be on the outside looking in.”

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