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Apple looks to make AI more personal

In Technology
June 11, 2024

Apple (AAPL) took the leap into generative AI, debuting its Apple Intelligence platform at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday. It’s a massive shift for the company, bringing a host of new features to its various operating systems and products.

Apple certainly isn’t the first company to debut generative AI capabilities for its software or devices. Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG, GOOGL) both debuted their own AI chatbots and services in 2023 and updated them with new capabilities during their respective developer conferences earlier this year. But Apple is unique in how it’s positioning its AI service. Samsung also has its own Galaxy AI services, which use the company’s own AI models as well as Google Gemini models.

Rather than introducing a digital know-it-all, however, Apple, is presenting Apple Intelligence as a personalized AI platform designed to understand your data and provide it to you when you need it most. It’s a subtle distinction but one that acts as a key differentiator for Apple as it seeks to prove that its approach is the one consumers will find most useful.

Apple is bringing generative AI capabilities to Siri, elevating the voice assistant to a more prominent role across its operating systems. (Image: Apple)

Apple is bringing generative AI capabilities to Siri, elevating the voice assistant to a more prominent role across its operating systems. (Image: Apple) (Apple)

“When we think about what it means for intelligence to be really useful, it has to be centered on you,” said Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi. “We think AI’s role is not to replace our users but to empower them. … It needs to be integrated into the experience you’re using all the time. It needs to be intuitive, but it also needs to be informed by your personal context, really, knowledge of you.”

Apple is creating a personal kind of AI experience in a number of ways, including a new and improved version of Siri that is contextually aware of your data. For instance, imagine you have to pick your mother up from the airport but don’t know what time she gets in.

You’ll be able to ask Siri when your mom’s flight is landing, and the assistant will find the appropriate messages your mother sent you about her flight via email or text, then check real-time flight data to give you the exact time her flight lands.

Siri will also be able to understand the content on your screen. Say your friend sends you an address followed by a series of unrelated texts. You can tell Siri, “Save this address to their Contact Card,” and Siri will recognize that you want to save that particular address to your friend’s Contact Card without having to say your friend’s name over again.

Siri isn’t the only place you’ll find Apple Intelligence. Apple says it’s using the technology to help prioritize notifications, putting priority messages and app alerts at the top of your notifications stack and even summarizing long threads to help you catch up without having to scroll through endless messages.

Like Google and Samsung, Apple has also added generative AI-powered photo editing features and the ability to summarize and rewrite text in Mail and other apps.

But generative AI raises privacy concerns since data is regularly shared back and forth with the web. And it could be especially problematic for Apple to intertwine so much of your personal data with generative AI apps. To that end, Apple says it is using a number of on-device AI models that don’t share your data with cloud-based services.

Apple Intelligence will stack the most important notifications above less time-sensitive messages. (Image: Apple)

Apple Intelligence will stack the most important notifications above less time-sensitive messages. (Image: Apple) (Apple)

For requests that are too complex for on-device models, Apple says it will connect to its own specialized cloud services it calls Private Cloud Compute that run on Apple’s own servers powered by its own chips, which the company says ensures requests remain secure. What’s more, the company says that when users make requests, only a small amount of necessary data goes up to the cloud.

Apple further points out that its servers have no storage options for user data, so it won’t save any of the information it uses in your requests. The software powering Private Cloud Compute is also publicized so that it can be audited by security researchers.

Basically, the company wants users to know that while some AI prompts will use cloud-based AI models, your user data won’t end up being used to train future Apple models or live on Apple’s servers in perpetuity.

Apple isn’t only using its own AI models. It has also partnered with OpenAI to bring ChatGPT to the company’s devices. But Apple says you’ll be asked whether you want to use the service every time you try to access it before anything is sent to the OpenAI’s servers. The company says it’s also working to integrate other AI models including Google’s Gemini.

Apple Intelligence will be available on the iPhone 15 Pro and Macs and iPads running its M1 chip and newer later this fall. And if the company is successful in its effort to make generative AI truly useful for the average user, it could set Apple up as one of the industry leaders in the still-nascent space.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoofinance.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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