The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is restricting employee use of ChatGPT out of concern that employees could release confidential information about upcoming products like the iPhone 15.
But that’s not the *only* reason why. As it turns out, the company is actually working on its own version of the AI chatbot! And if you look back at some key strategic acquisitions, the picture as to what Apple may have in mind for its own ChatGPT starts to get clearer.
SiriGPT is alive
People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that Apple is working on its own large language models — an effort being led by SVP of Machine Learning and AI Strategy (and former SVP of Engineering at Google), John Giannandrea.
Beyond the rumor that the Cupertino-based tech giant is working on a ChatGPT rival, there aren't any significant leaks in the WSJ article. So let’s take a look at two key acquisitions made by Apple under Giannandrea’s tenure so far, and see what they tell us.
First is the purchase of AI startup Voysis in April 2020. This Dublin-based startup was working on a natural language solution that helped companies improve voice assistants by having longer-form conversations. This included being able to narrow retail search results by telling an assistant your budget and any other specific details — all while reducing the data footprint of it down to just 25MB of memory.
And second, the acquisition of UK-based AI Music. This team developed an “Infinite Music Engine,” which can intelligently create dynamic soundtracks based on what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. For example, it could serve up a playlist that changes dynamically based on your heart rate.
What does it all mean?
This is where we pull into the speculation station, as I make some semi-educated guesses based on what Apple has been up to. So do take what I say here with a pinch of salt.
Will we see a ChatGPT clone from Apple? No. I don’t believe you’ll get something exactly like that ChatGPT iOS app — a messaging service/chatbot hybrid that can be informative. Neither do I see it generating AI art or writing programs.
What I do see, however, is a drastically updated version of Siri. Something that communicates deeper with AI-enriched versions of its own apps, like Apple Music creating playlists based on how you’re feeling (Apple is supposedly working on a journaling app after all).
Maybe this could expand into the service intelligently creating a spreadsheet of whatever data set you have in Numbers, creating a presentation identifying the key statistics in Keynote, and even writing a bare bone script in Pages.
Apple’s version of generative artificial intelligence is not going to be some all-seeing overruling AI that could become your best friend. It’s going to create opportunities for the company’s own services to work a whole lot smarter for you. And of course, there will probably be a closely controlled API for third party developers to get in on the fun.
Tim Cook said it himself when expressing concerns about advancements in this area in the company’s most recent quarterly earnings call. He noted that it’s important to be “deliberate and thoughtful in how you approach [AI]."
Based on the fact that you can make ChatGPT do some really weird stuff, you can see why Apple took its time developing one. Working to do it “right” rather than do it “fast” has always been in the company’s DNA, and it’s not in its best interest to give you a version of Siri that always wants to get into your pants (yes, if you’re feeling like a bit of a horndog, you can get GPT-4 to do that).
Instead, it seems clear to me that Apple is leaning on these large language models to create a system that increases the capability and usability of Siri — a voice assistant that can not only understand your natural speech patterns better and hold a conversation, but also help in far more creative ways within the company’s own apps.
Will we see the improvements in iOS 17? My money’s on “No,” but time will tell, because WWDC 2023 would be the time to strike while the iron is hot.
On another note, everyone's popular AI chatbot finally has an official mobile app: here's how to get ChatGPT on iOS.