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Apple & AI – from 1st to last – a massive turn of events

We expect Apple to be at the forefront of everything tech – but where are they in the current AI battle?

Apple and the AI battle

The buzzword

Apple doesn’t often miss the boat…

If you are involved with, or follow the tech space in any way, then you’ll know that two words are dominant right now – Artificial Intelligence is everywhere. It’s clear we are witnessing the start of a technology, that will soon become ever more implicated in our daily lives.

Last year, I think it was DALL-E that first caught my eye in this space. Many tech journalists were covering what it was capable of. Adobe’s Creative Cloud already leans heavily on machine learning with its Sensei, which helps speed-up my creative tasks every day. Challenges that used to take hours, are now done in the blink of an eye, thanks to AI. Adobe has made it clear, that this is just the start, too.

Then, towards the end of last year, it seemed all we heard about was ChatGPT – the big one!

So, Adobe, Google, and Microsoft, both look to be staking a claim in the AI market – but where is Apple in this race?

A new normal

As we morph in to a new way of working, there are new risks associated with it.

Concerns over copyright infringement, misuse in the classroom, plagiarism, and the potential of job loses – all of these worries come hand in glove with our AI future. As a writer, should I be worried? Will your blog feeds soon be filled with content created at the click of a mouse? Will I soon be able to ask ChatGPT, to write a blog on iPhone 15, in the style of David Lewis? Farfetched, or a real possibility?

Tech companies, who are invested in AI, would rather us not feel threatened by it, but instead grasp the notion of being able to naturally converse with our computers as a gigantic step forwards.

Generative AI is actually what we are talking about, and the importance of being at the front of the race, the first to stick a flag in the ground, cannot be underestimated. The tools as we currently know them, are in their infancy, but when you have giants such as Google & Microsoft so heavily invested, you just know that over the coming years, generative AI will develop at a scary pace.

Bearing that in mind, where is Apple in the AI race? The wealthiest, and one of the most influential tech companies around, is seemingly showing little or no interest in the race, which is odd. Even more so, as they were, for a time, the front-runner in AI development with Siri.

Not only were they the first with Siri, but they build Neural Engines in to all their chips – hardware that is specifically developed to aid, and speed up machine learning tasks. And, although it appears Apple’s ambitions have now been wound back, for the longest while, they had wanted to conqueror the biggest AI challenge of all – the driverless car.

Here to assist

Voice assistants, were for many of us, one of our first, tentative steps in to the world of AI. Smart homes, based around voice assistants, are now becoming commonplace, and voice assistants have now developed to the point where they can recognise individual voices, to help give personalised answers, proving the speed of development.

Seeing the way that we’ve accepted the AI we’ve had around us until now, has spurred on the tech world to develop generative AI as quickly as possible.

Already we are seeing companies generating articles, and blogs for their websites using generative AI bots, like ChatGPT.

So many students have started to use ChatGPT to write entire papers, with little more than a cursory glance-through, that teachers and examining boards are busily trying to develop tools that can prove that papers have been AI generated. The content really is that good, that it’s hard to tell it apart.

The content that generative AI, such as ChatGPT can spew back at you, is pretty accurate too. OK, if you are a specialist in a particular area, sure, you’ll be able to find fault with it, but for the rank and file, the answers are good enough, to be more than passable.

The answers are based on vast amounts of gathered web data – obviously, that data can date, which can make the answers that chatbots give, have errors, but then the same is true with a Google search.

Is Google worried?

Google’s entire business plan, could be massively affected by the generative AI advance.

Instead of Googling a question, which in turn leads to web pages, with ad revenue and click-through money attached, the future could soon be going to just one chatbot, to obtain the answer to your question. So, add to job losses, the loss of ad-sense revenue for these websites too.

Google can see that the writing on the wall could be around the corner, so they have been developing their answer to ChatGPT – Bard. Although not quite ready for a public launch just yet, they know all too well that they need to be part of the AI race.

Likewise, Microsoft, too, has been busy getting Bing ready, which is already available.

And, of course, the more we all use these AI platforms, the faster the AI engine will learn, and the better the experience will become. Experts are forecasting that the complexity, and accuracy, of these engines is set to double every six months. That’s pretty hard to comprehend…

More than just words

Earlier, I mentioned DALL-E, which is an imaged based generative AI engine, and it has improved hugely in the past six months.

From a rather shaky start last year, it and others like it, such as Midjourney, are now capable of supplying fine art output, that is nearing the point, where it would be good enough to use in print.

So now, rather than buying art for your home now, you can get ‘originals’ created for your living space, by merely telling an AI engine what you are after. And, it’s not as if this process even takes time – you’ll be given dozens of options based on your input, within minutes.

Time to act

We consider Apple to be the creative tech company – you think of musicians, directors, video editors, you tend to imagine them sitting behind a Mac.

Generative AI is, at heart, creative, so, the fit with Apple should be a perfect, and harmonious one…and yet…

Apple will often tell you that music is in their DNA – that being the case, here is another reason that they shouldn’t be caught napping for too much longer. OpenAI, the platform on which ChatGPT is built, now has its sights set on the world of music.

Development is well underway to create new, ‘original’, AI music, in specific styles and genres, and it’s even able to sample your voice…this should be Apple through, and through, right?

It’s possible, though, that Apple are playing the long-game here. Similar to foldables, it could be they will let others take a hit, and make the mistakes, then prosper from their pitfalls.

Google’s stock, recently, took a bashing, when Bard made a few embarrassing mistakes. We know that Apple, at times, doesn’t rush to be first, when they know that pragmatism is the best approach. Perhaps that is the playbook with what we are seeing here. They have the money, they have the infrastructure with iCloud, and the chips with Neural Engines that can perform 15 trillion, complex operations, per second. Everything is lined up in their favour.

The company is tripling its data centre capacity this year, making sure their servers and systems, are up to the task. All well and good, but Apple is also beefing up their power capacity. They are about to increase it by 233 percent, reaching a desired capacity of a whopping 2GW. Makes you wonder if something big is being lined up right? AI will need data, and power, both of which they are quietly investing in.

Wrapping up

Apple are no fools. They will not be sitting in their Cupertino glass tower, oblivious to what’s going on. They will jump in to the generative AI market when it suits them, having learned well, from others mistakes. Timing will prove to be king.

Although Siri is now reckoned to be among the weakest of the voice assistants, it was, crucially, first.

With generative AI, though, it would seem that they’ve decided to ignore the race to be first, instead concentrating on the getting it right.

And just look at how Apple AI, could benefit some of their native apps – Logic Pro, and Final Cut being obvious candidates.

They are so well-placed to be dominant in AI. With a full-blown ecosystem already in place, and iCloud well established. The AR/VR headset is just around the corner, and that would clearly benefit from Apple’s own brand of AI.

A final thought…the latest we heard about the timing for that headset was WWDC in June. How about they announce the headset and their AI service at the same event? They have a week to interact with developers, first-hand. Maybe the delays over the release of the headset has always had more to it than we recognised.

A tempting and very possible thought, huh? I keep coming back to all that extra power they’ve been investing in. There simply has to be a reason…

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