Apple has decided to jump into the AI wars.
According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple has been working on a ChatGPT and Google Bard competitor. It seems that this strategy has led not only to a large language model platform dubbed "Ajax" but also an AI chatbot internally referred to by engineers as "Apple GPT."
This push for an AI chatbot has been a relatively recent development for Apple. Previously, the indication had been that Apple was loathe to jump into the AI arms race as it clashed with CEO Tim Cook's desire for polished products that avoided controversy. But it seems Apple could only hold off for so long, and has now been developing its AI platform for the past several months.
With this news just breaking, here are the three big takeaways you need to know about "Apple GPT."
'Ajax' and 'Apple GPT' are not the same
Gurman's expose reveals the internal codenames of two internal AI projects.
The first is "Ajax." This appears 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 does not, however, appear to be an LLM itself, nor is it an AI chatbot. Instead, it has been used to create Apple AI products, including an internal project called "Apple GPT" by Apple engineers.
If "Apple GPT" is ever launched as a consumer-facing product, the real name will obviously not reference what will become Apple's main competitor in the generative AI space. But for now, it's an apt placeholder.
'Apple GPT' is essentially a ChatGPT clone — for now
According to Gurman, Apple employees have said that the current iteration of Apple GPT isn't anything revolutionary. Instead it, "essentially replicates Bard, ChatGPT and Bing AI, and doesn’t include any novel features or technology."
Apple also currently has no plans to release this to consumers, which leads us to point number three...
Expect Apple to remain cautious with AI
Apple has reportedly been loathe to rush into AI, often citing privacy concerns. This is echoed in Gurman's reporting.
In fact, Gurman says that the AI projects that Apple is working on are focused largely on improving privacy when using generative AI. "The work includes trying to address potential privacy concerns related to the technology." And John Giannandrea, the company’s head of machine learning and AI appears to want to maintain Apple's conservative approach to generative AI for consumers.
In short, don't expect Apple GPT to show up on the iPhone 15 when it launches this fall. Expect Apple to take its time and only launch something for consumers when it thinks it's ready — in strong contrast to how Microsoft handled the launch of Bing Chat.
Seriously — you may never actually use Apple GPT
According to Gurman's report, Apple GPT was created as an experiment by a small team of Apple engineers. It remains internal and requires special permission to use if you are an Apple employee. In keeping with Apple's hesitancy around generative AI that we reported on previously, Apple even shut down the rollout of Apple GPT within the company over security concerns.
But it's not just that you can't currently use Apple GPT — you can't even use the things it creates. According to Gurman, "Any output from it can’t be used to develop features bound for customers." It's currently limited to assisting with prototypes and essentially is a more secure chatbot for Apple to use in lieu of outside products like ChatGPT or Google Bard.
Just because Apple doesn't have a chatbot doesn't mean it doesn't use AI
While Apple has been cautious with creating an AI chatbot, that doesn't mean it doesn't use AI in its products. Siri, the famous Apple voice assistant is an Apple AI product that you probably use every day if you have an iPhone.
But that's not the only way AI is integrated into your iPhone. Gurman points out that photos and search functions on the iPhone have gotten AI upgrades over the years and there's a new AI-improved autocorrect coming to iOS 17 this Fall.
In fact, we recently saw a report that the iPhone 15 is tipped for 'aggressive' use of AI when it comes out this fall. This could include improved AI integration with the iOS Health app that could allow you to get tailored workouts, meal plans and exercise routines based on the data the app collects (heart rate, sleep and breathing data, etc.).
So again, don't expect Apple GPT on your iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Pro, but do expect some improvements facilitated by AI machine learning.