Apple Made Once-Unlikely Deal With Sam Altman to Catch Up in AI

When a 23-year-old Sam Altman took the stage at Apple Inc.’s annual developer conference in 2008, he gushed about being able to use the company’s new App Store to promote his software, a friend-locating service called Loopt. “We think this is a new era of mobile, and we’re thrilled to be part of it,” Altman said.

Now, 16 years later, Apple is calling upon the entrepreneur again — but with a twist. This time, the company needs his help as much as he needs Apple.

Altman currently runs OpenAI, the leading startup in generative artificial intelligence. And Apple, racing to catch up in that area, has forged a partnership to integrate OpenAI’s ChatGPT into the iPhone’s operating system. Though the controversial Altman is unlikely to take the stage at the event, the agreement will be a key focus of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference next week — and it shows just how much the power in Silicon Valley has shifted over the past few years.

sam altman

The deal gives OpenAI access to hundreds of millions of Apple users, including ones that might have been hesitant to try ChatGPT otherwise. For Apple, the arrangement brings the company the hottest technology of the AI era — a chatbot with eerily powerful abilities — that it can pair with its own services.