What are Apple’s plans for generative AI? Tim Cook wants to be ‘thoughtful’

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In a series of recent earnings calls from big tech companies including Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon, generative AI was heralded as a big boost for the future.

What’s going on Apple?

In Apple’s second-quarter earnings call on May 4, unlike his counterparts at other big tech providers, CEO Tim Cook did not include any comments on artificial intelligence in his prepared opening remarks.

For the record, it was another strong quarter for Apple that beat analyst expectations with revenue of $94.8 billion.

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During the analyst question-and-answer session, Credit Suisse analyst Shannon Cross asked Cook about the Apple CEO’s view of generative AI in general, and more specifically how the technology will fit into Apple products.

Cook provided few details, upholding Apple’s long-standing strategy of maintaining a high degree of assurance about its future efforts.

“As you know, we don’t comment on product roadmaps,” Cook said.

Apple will take a deliberate and thoughtful approach to generative AI

Although Cook declined to comment on future products, he did provide insight into how Apple thinks about AI and how it will fit into the company’s products and services.

“I think it’s very important to be deliberate and thoughtful in how you approach these things,” Cook said. “And there are a number of issues that need to be worked out, as it’s talked about in a number of different places, but the potential is certainly very interesting.”

Cook did not elaborate on the specific issues, although there is no shortage of issues being debated in the broader industry about the impact and risks of AI.

There are ongoing conversations in the industry about bias in the way AI analyzes and generates content. There are also issues around the explainability of AI: organizations need to be able to explain as a model generated a certain result. Issues related to security and risks to society at large are an issue that the Biden administration is now tackling with a set of initiatives also announced this week.

AI is already part of Apple products

Apple is certainly no stranger to AI.

The Siri voice assistant uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) across all Apple products, including Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, Mac computers, and HomePod devices, to help users execute tasks. AI is also deeply integrated into the company’s iOS software, with capabilities like Deep Fusion to improve image quality. In 2021, Apple hired Samy Bengio, a former leader of Google’s AI efforts, to help Apple develop its own.

“Obviously, we’ve made tremendous progress integrating AI and machine learning throughout our ecosystem and incorporating it into products and features for many years,” Cook said.

Cook also noted that AI is present in features found in iPhones and Apple Watches today, including fall detection, accident detection, and electrocardiogram (ECG) functionality.

“These things are not just great features, but they are also saving people’s lives,” Cook said. “We think AI is huge and we will continue to weave it into our products very carefully.”

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