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Apple enters the AI arms race with new operating system

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Apple has finally jumped into generative AI, with new features into its iPhone, iPad and Mac software to help users accomplish everyday tasks more easily, and integrated support for third-party AI models, starting with OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

The company made the announcement at WWDC, its developer conference in California, unveiling the new Apple Intelligence system that will be integrated into iPhone, iPad and Mac devices. But not all devices will be capable of running the AI features, as Apple Intelligence requires significant chip power. Only the iPhone 15 Pro is capable of running the new system, along with devices powered by Apple’s M series chips.

Apple’s own AI features will be used to make Siri smarter, help users manage their inbox, edit photos and videos, or refine messages and documents, while ChatGPT can be used to access broader knowledge.

Users will retain control over their information, Apple claimed with users having to opt in to use ChatGPT, while chief executive Tim Cook promised the new Apple Intelligence would continue to respect user privacy, allaying fears that the move to generative AI would compromise Apple’s previous promises on data privacy.

“As we look to build in these incredible new capabilities, we want to ensure that the outcome reflects the principles at the core of our products,” he said. “It has to be intuitive and easy to use. It has to be deeply integrated into your product experiences.”

While some of the Apple Intelligence features will happen on-device, the more powerful requests will be sent to a private cloud, which uses specially created server and, Apple said extends the privacy and security of your iPhone to the cloud.

“Unsurprisingly, as it enters the AI era Apple is dialling up its security credentials as a core pillar of Apple Intelligence. However, it won’t escape people’s attention that like rivals, it has had to offer a cloud-based solution for some functions,” said CCS Insight’s Ben Wood. “This comes with unique challenges and although Apple has created its own private cloud for many functions, the partnership with OpenAI for ChatGPT marks a new direction for Apple which has previously been reluctant to partner for core technology.”

As widely expected, the company’s digital assistant Siri is one of the chief beneficiaries of the new Apple Intelligence.. The new Siri can act as a personalised help desk for Apple products, such as resetting AirTags or providing tutorials on how to use new features on the iPhone.

In the future, Siri will have on-screen “awareness”, interacting with information contained in messages on request such as adding an address from a message to a friend’s contact information. Siri will also be able to interact with apps on your device, including third party developers, to start videos when requested or extract information from photos to populate forms.

Apple Intelligence will also be used to power new features such as more powerful editing tools to remove unwanted objects from the background, or create videos from your own footage. The Notes app will record and transcribe audio, with Apple also bringing it to the phone app. These features have been largely available to some Android phones, such as Google’s Pixel phones and some Samsung devices.

“Apple customers aren’t going to dump their iPhones just because Samsung or Google smartphones can offer translation, transcription or generative AI photo editing,” said Mr Wood. “However, Apple Intelligence will probably give it enough skin in the AI game to remain competitive for the moment.”

Apple also announced the next version of its Mac software, Mac Sequoia, and introduced updates for the Apple Watch and AirPods, including a feature that will allow users to interact with Siri by shaking their head or nodding in response to messages from the digital assistant.

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