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Apple's new AI-powered services are what we've come to expect from Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa

Apple's new AI-powered services are what we've come to expect from Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa


Mike Fabus

Apple's WWDC announcements are about you and your digital life

Sometimes, when I jot down an idea or take a photo of another birthday dinner, I feel devastated that I'll never see it again. Anything. Like it's all buried in a digital version of the warehouse scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In theory, at least, Apple Intelligence is a superpower that helps you find and use all your digital content. But it's so much more. Apple's (AAPL) new AI-powered service is what we've come to expect from Siri, Google Assistant (GOOGL) and Amazon's Alexa (AMZN). And it's coming soon.

Coming this fall, Apple Intelligence is an on-device generated AI package unveiled at the tech giant's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that will act like a real assistant you can chat with to plan, communicate, and create. And best of all, it'll help you find and act on all those long-lost photos and notes with just a little information that traditional search tools can't help you with.

Imagine the following conversation:

“Siri, find pictures of Mom and Uncle Jim.”


“No, that's not it. You're squinting.”

“Well, how about this? They're both laughing.”

“Perfect. Thank you!”

In addition to helping you find the right photo among a sea of ​​snapshots, Apple Intelligence should also let you:

Stop taking meetings that don't end in time for your dinner appointment. Find the person who installed the glass blocks in your shower 10 years ago. Resurrect that suggestion from that Zoom call where your coworker was wearing a purple shirt.

Also see: Apple unveils 'Apple Intelligence' AI products at WWDC keynote

Indeed, Apple Intelligence is about you and your digital life. It's generative AI that lives inside your iPhone, iPad and Mac, not in the cloud like ChatGPT. So it helps you manage everything: meeting notes, calendars, emails, photos, spreadsheets, and more. Crucially, Apple is committed to privacy.

After a string of disappointingly minor iPhone updates, it's clear that we're hoping for more than just a refresh. That said, Apple Intelligence is available on the iPhone 15 as well as the upcoming iPhone 16, so either one might be a good fit if you're considering an upgrade.

Practical application of GenAI

Apple has cleverly packaged its generative AI technology and will be integrating it into its personal electronic devices in the coming months, but if your tech world begins with the Mac and ends with something that starts with “i,” you'll likely find that there's very little that's new or unique about Apple Intelligence.

For example, for over a year now, many companies have been feeding their own data into generative AI models such as OpenAI's ChatGPT, Alphabet's Google's Gemini, and Meta Platform's (META) open source Llama.

Rather than storing data on devices like Apple Intelligence, businesses are keeping the technology confined to their own networks, keeping data away from prying eyes. Departments like customer service, legal and human resources are using the technology to improve speed, quality and accuracy.

Microsoft's Copilot+ is expected to bring many of the capabilities of Apple Intelligence to Windows laptops that it is expected to bring to the Mac.

On the consumer side, Alphabet, Samsung (KR:005930) and others have been using generative AI since last fall, powering features due to be available on iPhones this fall, such as fast photo search, real-time translation and an art-to-internet feature called Circle to Search.

And the first AI PCs are due to ship next week with Copilot+, Microsoft's (MSFT) new on-device generative AI platform, which promises to bring many of the capabilities Apple Intelligence is expected to bring to Macs on Windows laptops.

Pros and Cons of On-Device GenAI

Serious large-scale language models don't fit on a smartphone or a laptop – they're too big to fit in most serious data centers.

ChatGPT 4.0 is said to be a collection of eight models with roughly 220 billion parameters each, and to reduce this to 10 billion parameters (roughly the same size as on-device models today), engineers will inevitably have to sacrifice some accuracy.

Ultimately, that doesn't matter because your reach is significantly more limited than anything in the world to anything you own. But with an on-device model, there are times when you have to summon the powerful tools of the cloud to get the job done.

Apple offers two ways to do this, depending on the nature of the task. For personal work, Apple said it will have a “private cloud computing” option, allowing it to secretly process very large language models on users' data. Apple didn't provide details on how that would work specifically.

Apple Intelligence also gives you the opportunity to work on jobs using ChatGPT in the cloud, and Apple Intelligence comes with access to subscription-level versions of OpenAI's models.

Read: Elon Musk opposes Apple's deal with OpenAI, threatens to ban the company's iPhones

More than anything, Apple's approach to privacy could be key to the company's success, because no matter how good Apple Intelligence becomes, most people would rather their private data be inaccessible to everyone than risk making it accessible to everyone.

Mike Fabus is a principal analyst at FabusTech, an independent market research firm in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Read more: What investors might be getting wrong about Apple's AI strategy

Chip giants like Nvidia, Intel and Qualcomm are backing Microsoft and Apple in their battle over the future of AI

-Mike Fabus

This content was produced by MarketWatch, an operation of Dow Jones & Co. MarketWatch is published independently of Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.

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06-15-24 1015ET

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