Apple and its future with Artificial Intelligence

Apple has hired John Giannandrea, former Senior Vice President of Engineering, specifically search and Artificial Intelligence, at Google. In his new role running machine learning and AI strategy, Giannandrea will be reporting directly to Tim Cook, Apple's CEO.

The bombshell news was shared with Apple employees in a company email, first reported on by The New York Times:

"Our technology must be infused with the values we all hold dear. John shares our commitment to privacy and our thoughtful approach as we make computers even smarter and more personal."

AI is critical to the next great leap forward in computing. Ethical AI is critical to how we, as people, survive that leap.

Facebook has increasingly come under fire for how it does and could use AI to monetize and manipulate its users for advertising and influence peddling. Google, which has made a more public effort to balance deep insight with deep exploitation, still has to wrestle with what could happen when and if those two streams mix accidentally or maliciously at the expense of its users.

Apple, which makes its money selling customers goods and services rather than selling customers' attention and insight, could offer an important alternative when it comes to fielding everything from intelligent assistants to autonomous technologies.

Yet Apple's commitment to world-class AI has been called into question for years. Despite fielding AI at the silicon level with the 2017 A11 Bionic chipset, and using it to power features like Face ID, the company's once ground-breaking Siri personal assistant has fallen behind offerings from Google and Amazon, especially when it comes to consistency and third-party support.

How Giannandrea will change this remains to be seen.

Siri recently moved from Eddy Cue's internet services organization to Craig Federighi's software engineering organization at Apple. Still, myriad AI features and teams exist across the orgs, including initiatives like Core ML, computer vision in Photos, Face ID biometric authentication, and the autonomous special projects that Tim Cook, in a move almost unprecedented for Apple, commented on way in advance of any product announcements.

I've been hoping for a while that Apple would unify AI services as its own organization, similar to how it grew out silicon separately from hardware engineering. With Giannandrea reporting to Cook, perhaps he can do for services what johny Srouji has done for hardware techhnologies.

No pressure.

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Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

3 Comments
  • "Apple, which makes its money selling customers goods and services rather than selling customers' attention and insight, ............." This is an important distinction. Let's hope it remains a distinction in the years to come.
  • You know, not everyone in the world wants to pay Apple's prices for their version of technology. The "free services" model has it's merits as long as consumers are aware of the trade offs. As much as Apple loves to fly the flag of "we don't collect your data", they do.. and are no where close to the level of transparency that other technology companies are.
  • ".. and are no where close to the level of transparency that other technology companies are" Absolutely this! And the fact is, if they want their AI to be anywhere near decent, they will need your data. And guess where the cost of hosting that is gonna land.....?