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On a string of recent earnings calls from big tech companies including Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon, generative AI was heralded as a big push for the future.
But what about Apple?
On Apple’s second-quarter earnings call on May 4, unlike his counterparts at other large technology vendors, CEO Tim Cook did not include any comments about artificial intelligence in his prepared opening remarks.
For the record, it was another strong quarter for Apple that topped analysts’ expectations with revenue coming in at $94.8 billion.
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During the question-and-answer session with analysts, Cook was asked by analyst Shannon Cross of Credit Suisse for the Apple CEO’s take on generative AI overall, and more specifically on how the technology will fit into Apple’s products.
Cook provided few details, keeping to Apple’s long-standing strategy of retaining a high degree of security about its future efforts.
“As you know, we don’t comment on product roadmaps,” Cook said.
Apple will take a deliberate and thoughtful approach to generative AI
Though Cook declined to comment on future products, he did provide insight into how Apple is thinking about AI and how it will fit into the company’s products and services.
“I do think it’s very important to be deliberate and thoughtful in how you approach these things,” Cook said. “And there’s a number of issues that need to be sorted, as is being talked about in a number of different places, but the potential is certainly very interesting.”
Cook did not elaborate on the specific issues, though there is no shortage of topics being discussed in the industry at large about the impact and risks of AI.
There are ongoing industry conversations about bias in how AI analyzes and generates content. There are also issues around AI explainability — organizations need to be able to explain how a model generated a certain result. Issues around safety and risks to society at large are a topic that the Biden administration is now tackling with a set of initiatives announced this week as well.
AI is already part of Apple products
Apple is certainly no stranger to AI.
The Siri voice assistant makes use of natural language processing (NLP) across Apple products including Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, Mac computers and HomePod devices, to help users execute tasks. AI is deeply integrated into the company’s iOS software as well, with capabilities such as Deep Fusion for improving image quality. In 2021, Apple hired Samy Bengio, a former leader of Google’s AI efforts, to help Apple build out its own.
“We’ve obviously made enormous progress integrating AI and machine learning throughout our ecosystem and we weaved it into products and features for many years,” Cook said.
Cook also noted that AI is present in features found on iPhones and Apple Watches today, including fall detection, crash detection and electrocardiogram (ECG) functionality.
“These things are not only great features, they’re saving people’s lives out there,” Cook said. “We view AI as huge and we’ll continue weaving it in our products on a very thoughtful basis.”