Only Apple Would Try to Rebrand AI. Will It Succeed?

You have to hand it to Apple Inc. After an embarrassing, tone-deaf ad last month that made the company look oblivious to AI’s impact on the world, its marketing department has now rebranded AI as “Apple Intelligence.” It’s a feat of superiority only the company could pull off.

Customers of Macs and the latest iPhones will use it to rewrite emails, transcribe and summarize calls, generate images and, most enticingly, cross-reference information from Apple apps. “Will I get to my daughter’s play performance on time?” Apple Software Chief Craig Federighi asked in one demo at the company’s annual World Wide Developers Conference on Monday. Apple Intelligence would talk to his iPhone’s proprietary Calendar, Maps, Mail and iMessage apps behind the scenes to answer the question.

After a string of mundane updates to its iOS and Mac OS software, these are the most exciting features in years, prompting praise from technologists on Twitter. But will Apple Intelligence really work as seamlessly as it did in the pre-recorded demos, when it rolls out this fall? I’m inclined to believe we’ll see glitches and latency issues that will make it a tough sell to consumers — at least initially.

The most sophisticated AI tools today process your queries on powerful cloud servers that require an Internet connection. Apple’s iPhone has a fraction of the power of those servers, but to make its AI service private and quick, it will run some AI queries via Siri “on device,” on a small language model Apple built itself to work on an iPhone. No internet connection needed.

Apple Intelligence will also decide, on the fly, if a query like “Will I get to my daughter’s play performance on time?” requires extra computing power. If it does, it’ll access a bigger AI model that Apple made, via something called “Private Cloud Compute,” which is essentially Apple’s own servers. Anything even more complex will request a query to ChatGPT, via a partnership with OpenAI. Apple, admirably, has gone to great lengths to keep this process private, with query requests being end-to-end encrypted and inaccessible to others.

The price for all of this could be speed.