Apple finally joins the AI gold rush

The US gadget giant has unveiled its Apple Intelligence system, which will run on all its operating systems to do the usual automation and generative tasks, even if it needs outside help.

Scott Bicheno

June 11, 2024

3 Min Read
source: apple

Apple doesn’t seem to be creating its own large language model (LLM), yet. Instead, Apple Intelligence combines on-device small language models which can dip into the cloud to tap established LLMs as and when the local one can’t cope with what is being asked of it. Initially, the sole LLM partner is Chat GPT.

“Our unique approach combines generative AI with a user’s personal context to deliver truly helpful intelligence,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “And it can access that information in a completely private and secure way to help users do the things that matter most to them.”

That second bit seems to be Apple’s AI unique selling point. Much of the day-to-day AI work will be done on-device meaning, we’re led to believe, that none of the data involved will leave the device. Then, when the cloud needs to get involved, Apple has created something called Private Cloud Compute, which it claims provides ‘a foundation that allows Apple to ensure that data is never retained or exposed.’

One of the reasons Apple will have gone big on privacy, apart from the fact that it has few other differentiators for its AI offering, is broader concerns about the intrusiveness and ubiquity of it in the Gen AI era. Not everyone was convinced, however, with Tech mogul Elon Musk using his own X platform to express concern about the Chat GPT outsourcing aspect.

One of the most useful tweaks Musk has made to X since he acquired it is the addition of ‘community notes’, which allow users to annotate tweets with qualifying information. On one of Musk’s tweets the community note explains that the use of Chat GPT is opt-in and that the user will be asked each time. ‘Siri can tap into ChatGPT’s expertise when helpful,’ says the press release. ‘Users are asked before any questions are sent to ChatGPT, along with any documents or photos, and Siri then presents the answer directly.’

“Seeking to take AI to the masses is a pivotal moment for Apple; providing developers with the tools that will create most sought-after features among users,” said Analyst Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight. “And this is just the beginning. The next wave of development will be mind boggling as everyone seeks to outpace each other.

“There’s an AI arms race but Apple remains in a unique position given its extensive touchpoints with consumers across the Apple universe. In stark contrast to rivals, Apple’s approach to AI plays to its strengths. Apple doesn’t need to be the first; it just needs to do it better. While it typically takes a more cautious ‘wait and see’ approach, it is interesting to see Apple make such a bold statement with AI still in its infancy.”

Not everyone was so blown away, however. “It will take about 4 to 5 years to fully populate the iOS ecosystem and so the significance of this to Apple’s fundamentals in the medium term is low at best,” wrote Richard Windsor of Radio Free Mobile.

“Instead, this is an answer to the critics who have accused Apple of having nothing when it comes to generative AI services, but it remains to be seen if these offer a boost to the quality of the user experience in the Apple ecosystem. Worst case, this is a placeholder for Apple to ensure it is in the generative AI game that it can backfill as its offering improves.”

Both pundits can be correct if we view this as a significant statement of intent. Nonetheless, 13 years after Apple unveiled its Siri digital assistant to great fanfare but disappointing delivery, it would seem prudent to take Apple’s inevitable hyperbole with a pinch of salt. Having said that, following the recent launch of Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs, this announcement confirms that the era of the AI-driven device is upon us.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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