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As we approach WWDC 2024 on June 10, it’s clear that this will be among the most important developer events in Apple’s history. The progress made by competitors such as Microsoft and Google — who have incorporated significant generative AI features into their products and services — means Apple must not merely catch up but surpass their advancements.

Recently, Microsoft integrated the GPT-4-based Copilot into its latest Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite X-based PCs, and Google is incorporating its Deepmind Gemini GenAI models across its ecosystem. Apple, as of now, is behind.

Also: The M4 iPad Pro’s true potential will be realized at WWDC, and AI will have a lot to do with it

Apple’s hardware, including the AI-powered M4 chip, has tremendous potential. However, hardware alone is insufficient. Consumers are looking for significant software innovations that enhance their user experience. Apple must demonstrate that its hardware advancements are crucial for the next generation of digital experiences, unlocking new AI capabilities and augmented reality interactions. What we see revealed at next week’s WWDC could fundamentally change how users interact with their devices.

What do I believe Apple needs to reveal — or, at least, set in motion — this month? I can think of six things:

1. Develop a clear on-device strategy for generative AI and invest in AI-driven developer tools

Apple needs a robust strategy for integrating gen AI across its devices. Embedding a small language model into MacOS, iOS, iPadOS, and VisionOS will enable real-time processing, improved responsiveness, and increased privacy by keeping more data on-device. Apple should also provide robust APIs to seamlessly utilize on-device, edge, and cloud processing for natural language understanding and computer vision tasks.

Also: Making generative AI more efficient with a new kind of chip

At WWDC, Apple must demonstrate its intention to invest heavily in comprehensive tools, frameworks, and training programs to foster a strong generative AI developer ecosystem, not just the back-end infrastructure. This includes user-friendly gen AI SDKs, detailed documentation, and interactive learning modules such as tutorials, online courses, and coding exercises. Active developer forums and regular Q&A sessions with Apple engineers will be crucial for knowledge sharing and support.

2. Leverage ethical AI and privacy as a competitive advantage

Emphasizing ethical AI development will ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability. Ethical AI involves addressing biases in AI models, ensuring AI decisions are explainable, and adhering to principles that prevent misuse or harm. This approach will help build trust and set a high standard in the AI industry.

Apple’s historical commitment to privacy can also give it a significant advantage in the AI race. Technologies like differential privacy and on-device processing would enable Apple to offer powerful AI capabilities while maintaining user trust. Differential privacy ensures that personal information cannot be traced back to individuals, and on-device processing minimizes the need to send sensitive data to cloud servers.

Also: Apple builds a slimmed-down AI model using Stanford, Google innovations

Providing private or family-specific AI instances would further enhance privacy and personalized interactions. For example, HomePod could recognize individual voices and offer personalized responses, while Apple TV+ could recommend shows tailored to each user. AI can coordinate family schedules, manage activities, and send reminders. Robust privacy controls and advanced parental controls ensure secure and healthy digital environments for children.

By focusing on these principles, Apple can lead by example and set new benchmarks in developing and deploying ethical AI.

3. Integrate seamlessly with third-party services and partner with multiple AI providers

To offer the best AI experiences, Apple must integrate its AI services with various third-party platforms and partner with multiple AI and service providers, not just OpenAI and ChatGPT, as the company is expected to do. For example, Siri could provide personalized shopping recommendations by integrating with Amazon and Instacart. It could remind users to reorder items or suggest products based on past behavior. 

Collaborating with financial services like Plaid, especially with Apple Card, could offer comprehensive financial insights, including budgeting advice, expense tracking, and alerting users to unusual account activity. 

Also: Make room for RAG: How Gen AI’s balance of power is shifting

While Watch, Fitness+, and Health are the company’s preferred health platforms, excluding third-party health data providers from its AI infrastructure would be inadvisable. Partnering with health and fitness apps like MyFitnessPal and Fitbit would allow Apple’s AI to offer tailored workout plans and nutrition advice while seamlessly monitoring health metrics. AI could work with platforms like Khan Academy and Coursera in education to provide personalized learning recommendations and track educational progress.

Apple should also incorporate Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG), which combines generative language models with information retrieval techniques to access external knowledge sources and incorporate real-time data into responses. 

Partnering with multiple AI providers, including specialists in natural language processing, computer vision, and machine learning, will bring cutting-edge innovations and accelerate the development of advanced features across Apple’s ecosystem. This multi-partner approach reduces the risk of over-reliance on a single provider, increases resilience, and allows Apple to tailor AI solutions to different markets and user segments.

4. Deploy AI-accelerated appliances on the edge with dedicated cloud capacity

To meet the growing demand for fast application response times, I believe Apple should consider using AI-accelerated edge devices capable of handling complex AI tasks locally. This would help reduce latency and improve overall performance. Apple’s vertically integrated supply chain will likely involve AI servers powered by M2 Ultra and M4 chips, especially within its data centers. This setup would ensure seamless integration with Apple’s software and provide greater control over performance and security. Localized processing can be enabled by placing these devices strategically in regional and metropolitan data centers, reducing the reliance on internet bandwidth.

Also: AI at the edge: 5G and the Internet of Things see fast times ahead

Additionally, Apple could collaborate with cloud-based AI providers to manage complex AI tasks in the cloud when necessary. Combining edge and cloud resources, this hybrid approach would create a robust and scalable AI infrastructure that supports real-time AI applications such as augmented reality, language translation, and advanced data analytics.

5. Enhance proactive assistance and personalization

Apple’s AI should proactively anticipate user needs and provide personalized experiences across its ecosystem. AI can analyze calendar events, habitual purchases, and traffic conditions to offer contextual reminders, like leaving early for appointments or suggesting groceries. Personalized briefings on Apple Watch could include weather updates, news summaries, traffic alerts, and schedule highlights.

Also: Google unveils big AI features coming to Android phones. Here’s what to expect

AI can enhance contextual awareness by integrating with sensors and data sources on Apple devices. For example, starting a workout on Fitness+ could prompt AI to suggest a matching Apple Music playlist, monitor health metrics in real-time with Apple Watch, and provide motivational prompts. AI can analyze user behavior to offer smart recommendations for content, activities, and products, acting as a personal assistant attuned to individual tastes.

Proactive health and wellness features could remind users to take medication via the Health app, suggest wellness tips based on activity levels tracked by Apple Watch, and offer mental health support through mindfulness reminders. Personalized routines on Apple devices, like HomePod adjusting lighting based on daily habits, will enhance user experiences.

6. Ensure AI shines across all products and services

Given Apple’s extensive range of consumer products, generative AI capabilities must excel across every product in the ecosystem. I think I can speak for every Apple product user that enhancing Siri to make its responses more relevant and intelligent is crucial, but generative AI must also improve experiences in Apple Music, Apple News, Health, Fitness+, and TV.

In Apple Music, AI could create personalized playlists and provide music recommendations based on user preferences. In Apple News, AI could curate personalized news feeds and summarize articles.

Also: Move over, Alexa and HomeKit: A new Assistant is here to open source your smart home

In Health and Fitness+, AI could offer tailored workout routines and personalized wellness tips, while Apple Watch could provide deeper health insights and track fitness goals.

For Apple TV, AI could improve content discovery by recommending shows based on viewing history and offering interactive features like real-time trivia.

Leveraging AI to enhance HomeKit’s capabilities is essential, especially since HomeKit isn’t a market leader in home automation. AI can offer smarter home automation by predicting user behavior to automate lights, thermostat settings, and security systems. 

Integrating AI across all devices ensures a seamless user experience. Preferences and data from one device would then inform recommendations on another, creating a unified ecosystem.

How Apple wins the generative AI race

Apple’s success in the AI race hinges on its ability to innovate and outperform competitors. By developing a clear on-device strategy, deploying AI-accelerated devices at the edge, and partnering with multiple AI and service providers, Apple can ensure comprehensive integration and enhanced user experiences. Emphasizing privacy, ethical AI development, and continuous innovation, Apple must leverage its ecosystem to provide seamless, personalized interactions across all products.

The transition to Apple Silicon chips on the Mac at WWDC 2020 was a game-changer. The M1 significantly improved performance, power efficiency, and integration within Apple’s ecosystem, giving the company greater control over its supply chain and product development. However, it didn’t drastically transform the user experience, and the M4, while impressively powerful three generations onward, cannot transform the user experience solely on its specifications, either.

Also: The 3 Apple products you shouldn’t buy this month (including this iPad)

This year’s developer event, however, promises to be transformative. Generative AI could impact every aspect of Apple’s ecosystem and applications, enhancing every part of the user experience over the next several years. This is more than just another update; it’s about redefining what users can expect from their devices.

For consumers, the AI race is about trust, user experience, and integrating advanced capabilities into daily life. Apple has the opportunity to set new benchmarks and inspire the tech community, starting now with WWDC 2024 — a crucial moment for Apple to demonstrate its vision and commitment to leading the future of AI-driven innovation.

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