Microsoft reportedly unhappy about Apple’s OpenAI iPhone

May 30, 2024

I don’t think NBC ever considered a show called ‘Frenemies,’ but if the broadcaster had done so, the script could echo imminent tension as Apple and Microsoft both cozy up to OpenAI and ChatGPT. It’s an open relationship that doesn’t appear to be making the Windows maker happy.

According to The Information, Microsoft has been meeting with OpenAI to express some concern that Apple has reached a deal with the ChatGPT publisher to use generative AI in its products. 

Microsoft Copilot’s Apple copilot

Microsoft is apprehensive because it has now sewn ChatGPT tightly within Microsoft Copilot — and the company’s entire ecosystem. Microsoft partners such as Orange Business are also in the picture, offering their own services around Copilot. Like ‘that’ episode of Friends, this ménage à trois is already a little crowded.

Disapproval comes straight from Microsoft’s C-suite. CEO Satya Nadella has reportedly met with Altman to discuss his concerns, particularly around QoS (Quality of Service) levels. Microsoft is worried that OpenAI’s servers will be unable to handle the quantity of requests generated when hundreds of millions of Apple users query ChatGPT, and that this may impact its own customers.

Microsoft has cause to feel protective. The company has pumped billions ($13b) into its Sam Altman-led AI partner, despite growing concerns about “safety and processes” at the firm. Apparently, the PC OS vendor now wants a slice of any revenue OpenAI generates as a result of the not-so-secret deal it has allegedly reached with Apple.

Zooming out

At the same time, OpenAI benefits from offering its services via all established platforms, as failing to do so could easily be construed as anti-competitive — even though Apple and Microsoft effectively compete using ChatGPT-like services, frenemy style. Microsoft fears it will lose its competitive edge, and Apple meanwhile continues to develop its own unique AI approaches, particularly around vision intelligence, spatial computing, and (of course) data privacy. 

OpenAI is expected to drive some, but not all, of the AI features Apple plans to introduce — improved contextual understanding in Siri may be one of those. It is therefore quite telling that The Information claims Apple wants to make it transparent to customers when they are making use of OpenAI. 

We also believe Apple is working to introduce unique AI tools that work entirely on the device, as well as server-side solutions heavily protected by iCloud privacy and encryption technologies. 

Rocks in the road

There are some challenges that may yet sour the relationships Apple and Microsoft have with OpenAI, not least the frequently voiced claims that safety, security, and potential baked-in bias are not being correctly managed by the AI company. 

That’s a concern professionals across the AI industry have always understood. Even Apple’s former senior director of machine learning and artificial intelligence, Carlos Guestrin, warned that poorly managed data can deliver very bad results

This is likely why Apple, which has been working in AI far longer than so many reporters seem to believe, has been proceeding slowly and deliberately. Tech is meant to make things better, not worse. You only need to look at the impact of the dark side of social media to see what happens when strong controls are not in place.

Chef’s kiss

All that aside, Apple’s response seems to have been to work in partnership with OpenAI, and — if the report is to be believed — to put transparency guards in place so people know where responses come from.

The company may also be working to offer users a choice of genAI service providers, but nothing to that effect has been strenuously claimed.

And always in the background, Apple’s own AI teams are working on something of their own, designed to capitalize on what noted financial analyst Keith Fitz-Gerald says will be “another iPhone moment” as Apple puts AI inside the iPhone. 

Microsoft, of course, is concerned that as mobile devices become smarter, its much vaunted Surface Pro recovery could fizzle out before the brand really pops. There’s a lot at stake, which is why there will be so many people glued to the next Apple keynote on June 10.

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Source:: Computer World

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