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Apple taming the data-scraping demon

What a thoroughly grown-up approach

Apple and your privacy

There was a lot of speculation leading up to this week’s WWDC just how Apple would go about introducing the data demon that is Artificial Intelligence into the Apple ecosystem.

The answer turned out to be ever so simple – they didn’t!

We’d wondered for ages why Apple had taken so long to throw their hat into the ring of the latest tech fashion wave and I think earlier this week they gave us the answer.

They weren’t interested in following the herd – they had stood back long enough to take a good look at what was going on and from that stance point decided how they wanted to roll their dice.

I’ve written before that I’m not all that interested in many of the AI toys that are out there. In my mind, much of what Samsung and Google have shown us are show-pony gimmicks that wouldn’t be used regularly in the real world – away from the conference stage that is.

Adding frames to video footage makes for good event fodder – but would I ever use it? Nah – it would probably end up amongst that long list of useless, unused features that I eventually forget how to use anyway.

Apple Intelligence – yes please!

Apple has chosen the name Apple Intelligence for good reason. They have taken the decision that’s made me ever so happy – let’s have less flab and more function.

They are leaning heavily into nearly 20 years of iPhone use to deliver us a truly personal assistant. If I were to look to hire a flesh and bones PA the one thing they would need to have to make my working and personal life better would be a deep, insightful, personal knowledge of what makes me tick. When the car needs a service, when my next dentist appointment should be or when my friend is flying in from the States to see me.

It takes years to build up that core level knowledge of someone, but quietly over the past two decades that is precisely what our iPhones have been doing. The obvious weakness of the Humane Pin or the Rabbit R1 device is they don’t know who you are – your iPhone however knows pretty much everything about you.

Scary but true.

Privacy was always going to be the lynchpin – how could Apple possibly retain the privacy that is at the very centre of the business model they’ve peddled all these years when the one thing AI needs is data gathered from as many places as possible?

Out of all that Apple served us on Monday the way they managed to get us into bed with the devil without turning their backs on our privacy was nothing short of genius.

What we have is a three-tiered approach to seeking our AI answers and Apple has put us in control. We ultimately decide how much we crave the answers – how far we want to push the envelope or should we pump the brakes.

Apple has tried as much as possible to keep the searching within their walled garden. The simplest of requests are carried out on device so completely secure. That’ll be Apple silicon and their famed neural engines coming into play.

If your request is a bit too tricky then it is sent out, encrypted, to Apple server centres again with total privacy. Your data isn’t stored but merely dealt with. And finally, in a genius relationship with Open AI – you will now have arguably the best LLM at your service on your iPhone…but only if you say yes, that you’re happy for ChatGPT to get involved. You decide if it’s worth it.

And if you do take that route once again your request is private and your data not stored – no history is being built on you ready to be farmed or sold.

Siri this week finally grew a pair! It has all of a sudden almost in front of our eyes gone from boy to man. It will be natural and personal and seemingly feel intuitive to use.

I’ve never been much of a voice assistant kind of guy – it’s always seemed more hassle and vague than simply sorting the answer out for myself – but now, well that could be set to change.

For me, the fact that Apple Intelligence will become an aid to my writing is a big win as well with this raft of new OS. Currently, I rely on Grammarly, but hopefully, soon I can rely on my Mac to spell, grammar and punctuation check me. The writing tools in Sequoia will learn my style to help make its suggestions feel natural. Grammarly are about to be Sherlocked!

This year Apple has been on fire and has rekindled my love for them. From the MacBook Air to the iPad Pro I’m writing this on now and then everything that they announced Monday – Apple has found their mojo.

I’ve never taken part in any of Apple’s beta test programmes but this year I’m tempted. I may install Sequoia on my M3 iMac as that is the machine I rely less on. But, I wanted to test iOS 18 out – I signed into the beta program on my iPhone 14 Pro and then realised that it has to be a 15 Pro and newer with the A17 chip – bugger!

Anyway, whether I get to test the betas or not – overall this has been a vintage year for us. As long as Apple Intelligence delivers then I think this will go down as a very, very good year.

They needed to deliver on Monday – and boy did they!

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