2024 is shaping up to be a landmark year for Apple. The Apple Vision Pro started shipping today, and it’s not just a new product, it’s a whole new computing platform for the company. So, what else could happen that would solidify 2024 as a landmark year for Apple? It’s AI, based on comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook during Thursday’s first-quarter financial statement call.
In his opening statements, Cook said that Apple “will continue to invest in…technologies that will shape the future. That includes artificial intelligence, where we continue to spend a tremendous amount of time and effort, and we’re excited to share the details of our ongoing work in that space later this year.”
“Later this year” likely means Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, where the company showcases the latest developments in its operating systems. Cook’s comment comes after Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported last Sunday that iOS 18 will be “one of the biggest iOS updates–if not the biggest–in the company’s history. Last October, Gurman reported that Apple’s generative AI push will start with iOS 18.
And Cook, during Thursday’s call, all but confirmed that push during a response to a question by Mike Ng of Goldman Sachs. “In terms of generative AI…we have a lot of work going on internally as I’ve alluded to before. Our M.O., if you will, has always been to do work and then talk about work and not to get out in front of ourselves, and so we’re going to hold that to this as well. But we’ve got some things that we’re incredibly excited about that we’ll be talking about later this year.”
To finish off Thursday’s call, Cook was again asked about AI by Ben Reitzes of Melius Research. Here’s Cook’s answer: “Let me just say that I think there’s a huge opportunity for Apple with gen AI and AI, and without getting into more details and getting out in front of myself.”
How Apple will use generative AI in in operating system remains to be seen. The most obvious feature is Siri, which would give it a big boost in terms of operability and the responses it provides. Messages could benefit, and we could see it in certain apps. For example, generative AI is often used by software developers, so it could be a major feature for Xcode, Apple’s integrated development environment app.
AI has exploded on the tech scene, specifically generative AI, which is AI used to create content. While several companies have showcased generative AI features, Apple has been lurking in the shadows, which has led to speculation about Apple’s plans.
The ability to create something out of what feels like nothing is why generative AI has received all the attention. But Apple has non-generative AI features in its products–the company doesn’t usually use the term “AI” and prefers “machine learning.” Cook went out of his way to point this out during Thursday’s call when talking about the Vision Pro. “It’s of course built on many innovations that Apple has spent multiple years on, from silicon to displays, and significant AI and machine learning, all of the hand tracking, the room mapping,” said Cook. “All of this stuff is driven by AI, and so we’re incredibly excited about it.”