Apple is quietly working on artificial intelligence tools that could challenge those of OpenAI, Alphabet’s Google and others, but the company has yet to devise a clear strategy for releasing the technology to consumers.
The iPhone maker has built its own framework to create large language models — the AI-based systems at the heart of new offerings like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard — according to people with knowledge of the efforts. With that foundation, known as “Ajax,” Apple also has created a chatbot service that some engineers call “Apple GPT.”
In recent months, the AI push has become a major effort for Apple, with several teams collaborating on the project, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The work includes trying to address potential privacy concerns related to the technology.
Apple shares gained as much as 2.3 per cent to a record high of $198.23 after Bloomberg reported on the AI effort Wednesday, rebounding from earlier losses. Microsoft, OpenAI’s partner and main backer, slipped about one per cent on the news.
A spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple declined to comment.
The company was caught flat-footed in the past year with the introduction of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google Bard and Microsoft’s Bing AI. Though Apple has woven AI features into products for years, it’s now playing catch-up in the buzzy market for generative tools, which can create essays, images and even videos based on text prompts. The technology has captured the imagination of consumers and businesses in recent months, leading to a stampede of related products.
Apple has been conspicuously absent from the frenzy. Its main artificial intelligence product, the Siri voice assistant, has stagnated in recent years. But the company has made AI headway in other areas, including improvements to photos and search on the iPhone. There’s also a smarter version of auto-correct coming to its mobile devices this year.
Publicly, chief executive officer Tim Cook has been circumspect about the flood of new AI services hitting the market. Though the technology has potential, there are still a “number of issues that need to be sorted,” he said during a conference call in May. Apple will be adding AI to more of its products, he said, but on a “very thoughtful basis.”
In an interview with Good Morning America, meanwhile, Cook said he uses ChatGPT and that it’s something that the company is “looking at closely.”