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  • Robert Farago

Has AI Doomed Apple?

Remember IBM?

“Apple makes the bulk of its money from iPhones,” reports. “Why talk a big AI game?” Because they don’t have one?

Siri is Apple’s AI. Is Siri as good as ChatGPT, Bard or Claude? Not even close. If I want intel, AI chatbots are streets ahead in terms of relevance, utility and accuracy. No, you didn’t hallucinate that.

AI is a lot more than a better Google search engine. There are now AI apps that can reach out and touch someone (not to coin a phrase). They can go onto the ‘net and get shit done.

The OpenTable ChatGPT plugin can find and book a table at the nearest pho (not faux) restaurant. Allset can do the same thing and pre-order your meal according to dietary preferences.

Ask Siri to find and book a nearby pho restaurant. “OK, here’s what I found,” she pronounces. You’re presented with six choices. It’s up to you to choose a suitable eatery and book it.

I imagine Apple’s working on bringing Siri up to snuff. Alternatively, the tech giant may be negotiating to buy Taiwan. I mean, a company that’s got a Siri-compatible large language model program in the bag.

Meanwhile, there’s no mistaking it: Apple’s behind the AI “Ta-Da!” curve. More so every day.

The delay in introducing a proper AI Siri may be down to Apple’s commitment to quality. Cupertino demands software that’s efficient, reliable, secure and fully integrated with existing programs. And, these days, politically correct. (AI Siri will wake woke.)

With AI Siri, users won’t need any other interface/app. Navigating around Apple’s walled garden – and beyond! – will be Siri’s job, not yours.

But if Siri is the interface, the One App to Rule Them All, the importance of the phone itself is vastly diminished. You’re buying Siri, not the iPhone.

So if someone else offers a better Siri, why not offer it on another phone? And people are developing a better Siri. And they will buy a different phone to access it. Especially if the phone’s cheaper.

Yes, Apple’s installed base of a billion iPhone users protects it from wholesale AI phone usurpation – just as IBM’s enormous installed base protected them from upstart Apple. I’m sure I’m not the only person who sees an opportunity to eat a portion of Apple’s $53b quarterly iPhone revenue.

During calls after this week's earnings reports, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and his team said "AI" 66 times. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his execs said it 47 times. On Wednesday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook executive team said the magic phrase 42 times, according to a CNBC analysis of transcripts. But Apple barely talks about artificial intelligence, and you shouldn't expect to hear much about it during the company's earnings next week.

That said, Apple was a signatory to Joe Biden’s AI safety/censorship agreement. Which makes Apple a founding member of the AI cartel. So either Apple is playing its cards close to the vest or it’s guilty of the same hubris that took down IBM. Or both. We shall see.

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