Apple and OpenAI currently have the most misunderstood partnership in technology

Enlarge / You’re not using an iPhone, but some people talk to Siri like that.

On Monday, Apple debuted “Apple Intelligence” during a wide-ranging presentation at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in Cupertino, California. However, the heart of its new technology, a series of artificial intelligence models developed by Apple, was overshadowed by the announcement of the integration of ChatGPT into the operating systems of its devices.

Since rumors about the partnership first surfaced, we’ve seen confusion on social media about why Apple didn’t develop a cutting-edge chatbot similar to GPT-4 internally. Despite Apple’s year-long development of its own Large Language Models (LLM), the integration of ChatGPT (and opening the door to others, such as Google Gemini) was perceived by many as a sign of Apple’s lack of innovation. .

“This is really strange. Surely Apple could form a very good competing LLM if it wanted to? They’ve had a year,” AI developer Benjamin De Kraker wrote on X. Elon Musk has also complained about the OpenAI deal and spread misinformation . about it, saying things like: “It’s patently absurd that Apple isn’t smart enough to create its own AI, but is somehow able to ensure that OpenAI protects your security and privacy!”

While Apple has developed many technologies in-house, it has never been shy about integrating external technology when necessary in a variety of ways, from acquisitions to onboarding customers; In fact, Siri was initially developed by an outside company. But when reaching a deal with a company like OpenAI, which has been the source of a number of technology controversies recently, it is understandable that some people do not understand why Apple made the decision and what it could mean for the privacy of its users. -device data.

“Our customers want something with knowledge of the world sometimes”

While Apple Intelligence largely uses its own Apple-developed LLMs, Apple also realized that there may be times when some users want to use what the company considers the “best” LLM currently out there: the GPT-4 family from OpenAI. In an interview with The Washington Post, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained the decision to integrate OpenAI first:

“I think they are pioneers in the area and today they have the best model,” he said. “And I think our clients want something with knowledge of the world sometimes. So we consider everything and everyone. And obviously we’re not stuck on one person forever or anything like that. We’re also integrating with other people. But they’re the first and I think today is because they are the best.”

The proposed benefit of Apple integrating ChatGPT into various experiences within iOS, iPadOS, and macOS is that it allows AI users to access ChatGPT’s capabilities without the need to switch between different apps, either through the Siri interface or using Apple’s built-in “Writing Tools.” Users will also have the option to connect their paid ChatGPT account to access additional features.

In response to privacy concerns, Apple says that before sending any data to ChatGPT, the operating system asks for the user’s permission and the entire ChatGPT experience is optional. According to Apple, OpenAI does not store requests and users’ IP addresses are hidden. Communication with OpenAI servers apparently occurs via API calls similar to using the ChatGPT app on iOS, and there is reportedly no deeper OS integration that could expose user data to OpenAI without the user permission.

Of course, we can only take Apple’s word for it at this point, and solid details about Apple’s AI privacy efforts will emerge once security experts get their hands on the new features later this year.

Apple’s history of technological integration

You’ve already seen why Apple chose OpenAI. But why look for technology in external companies? In some ways, Apple incorporating an external LLM client into its operating systems isn’t much different than what it has done before with video streaming (the YouTube app on the original iPhone), Internet search (Google search integration) and social networks (integrated sharing of Twitter and Facebook).

The press has positioned Apple’s recent moves in AI as if Apple is “catching up” to competitors like Google and Microsoft in terms of chatbots and generative AI. But acting calmly and calmly has long been part of Apple’s modus operandi: not necessarily introducing the most advanced technology, but improving existing technology by refining it and giving it a better user interface.

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