Apple has, reportedly, joined the AI race and is working on generative AI tools that could rival OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
In July 2023, Bloomberg revealed that Apple started testing its own AI chatbot that staff were internally referring to as “Apple GPT”. The company also started building its own framework called “Ajax” to create large language models (LLMs).
Artificial intelligence has been the talk of the tech industry this year and both Microsoft and Google are going all-in on machine learning.
At this year's Google I/O, the search giant spent the majority of the keynote explaining all the different products it's adding AI to. Apple has been noticeable silent on the topic, so now rumors are circulating the iPhone maker is interested in AI, we'll be keeping a close eye on the latest developments.
Apple GPT: Latest news
Apple CEO Tim Cook’s desire for polished products that avoided controversy was not enough to stop news of the company joining the AI rush from seeping out. And the response, at least from investors, seemed positive. As the news broke, Apple shares rose by 2%.
Apple seemingly has several teams working on its latest AI tools. According to the Bloomberg report, the LLM project is a cross-company effort spanning the software engineering, machine learning and cloud engineering teams. The efforts are being led by Apple’s head of machine learning and AI John Giannandrea and its top software engineering executive Craig Federighi. Giannandrea and Cook are thought to be taking the more conservative stances out of the three.
While news of Apple’s AI projects “Ajax” and “Apple GPT” broke simultaneously, these are actually two different projects.
The former is said to be a platform for creating large language models (LLMs) such as the GPT-4 model that powers Bing Chat and ChatGPT or the PaLM 2 model powering Google Bard. It was built on Google's machine learning framework Jax (hence the '"Ajax" moniker) and runs on Google Cloud servers. Ajax was created in 2022.
So far it seems Ajax isn’t an LLM in itself. Instead, it’s being used to create Apple AI products, including Apple’s internal chatbot project.
“Apple GPT” is the informal name for Apple’s answer to Bard, ChatGPT, and Bing AI. If the company ever decides to release its chatbot to consumers, expect it to be marketed under a new name.
But we may not see that new name anytime soon. In a blog post from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, they say Apple GPT probably is not coming in 2024, as Apple remains far behind its competitors when it comes to generative AI, so it seems set to continue its slow, steady approach before launching a consumer-facing product.
Apple GPT: Rumored release date
According to Bloomberg, Apple aims to make a significant AI-related announcement in 2024. However, with few details in the public domain, there’s no guarantee that the big reveal will be about Apple’s chatbot project. Bear in mind, Apple has integrated machine learning into huge amounts of its ecosystem — more on that down below.
Nonetheless, WWDC is the most likely forum for such an announcement, given its status as a software and developer-focused show. But all this still hinges on Apple having something satisfactory to talk about publicly. Before that day arrives, official public statements about progress on this AI announcement are expected to be sparse.
In fact, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that you shouldn't expect public statements this year or in 2024. The Apple analyst says that “there is no sign that Apple will integrate AI edge computing and hardware products in 2024.” Even Gurman admits that Apple does not have a concrete plan internally yet regarding a 2024 AI announcement.
Which tracks with what we already knew. In the summer of 2023, Apple was still working on concrete plans for its AI tools with nothing yet being finalized. Despite global interest in the AI space showing no signs of cooling off, Apple was also yet to decide whether its AI tools would ultimately be released to consumers.
Apple GPT started out as an experiment by a small team of Apple engineers in 2022. Apple HQ initially shut down the company-wide rollout of this internal product over security concerns. Now, Apple employees need special permission to use it. Apple bosses have also mandated that none of its outputs can be used to develop features created for Apple customers.
It's currently limited to assisting with prototyping future features and essentially is a more secure chatbot for Apple to use in lieu of outside products like ChatGPT or Google Bard. Apple has already banned its employees from using ChatGPT and other AI platforms over fears its own AI plans could be leaked.
Apple GPT can so also summarize texts and answer questions based on data it has been trained with.
As is the case with almost every product it makes, Apple is taking things slowly and isn’t likely to make any major announcements until it has something concrete to reveal.
Apple GPT: predicted features
In the summer of 2023, when news of Apple GPT’s existence first broke, its capabilities were reported to be similar to those of Google Bard and ChatGPT. It was said to possess no novel features or technology. Rather than being revolutionary, it was essentially a replica of the other available chatbots.
Cupertino is still trying to figure out the consumer angle for generative AI. It’s working on several related initiatives but the company remains tightlipped about what its fans can ultimately expect to see.
The likeliest AI improvements could include improved AI integration with the iOS Health app allowing for workouts, meal plans and exercise routines based on the data the app collects (heart rate, sleep and breathing data, etc.).
Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, is its current core AI product. However, it has stagnated over the years. Unofficially, some have figured out how to use Siri with ChatGPT and made other integrations like S-GPT to integrate ChatGPT’s power into your iPhone.
Is Apple GPT a chance for Tim Cook to make things official? Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman hypothesizes that new AI technology could make Siri more conversational and upgrade it to be able to handle more tasks, some even autonomously.
A look at Apple’s vacancies may shed some light on the direction it's heading in terms of AI. In summer of 2023, several open positions were directly related to AI, evidence that the company truly is investing more in this space. One such position calls for someone that will “[use] machine learning to build phenomenal features that are built right into Apple platforms” so that user behavior is better understood and anticipated.
Internally, the company is looking at ways to have AppleCare support staff leverage Apple GPT to assist their customers. The company is looking to push generative AI into even more parts of its operations.
Apple GPT: Outlook
In Apple’s May 2023 earnings call, CEO Tim Cook said that the company views “AI as huge” and committed to continue weaving it in his products “on a very thoughtful basis”.
That was his way of saying that Apple is currently racing to build generative AI tools that can keep up with the competition.
Such products have already made their debut internally, albeit in a restricted manner. The pressure is now on for Apple to decide on its plan of action and be able to deliver before the end of 2024. But we are still healthily skeptical that a major Apple AI announcement will come by then. Apple will want to make sure that when it releases a generative AI tool that its the best on the market, a pattern it follows with most products.