Apple Said to Use In-House Server Chips to Power AI Tools Coming to iPhone, iPad, and Mac Computers This Year


Apple Inc. will offer some of its upcoming AI features this year through data centers equipped with its own internal processors, part of a broader effort to equip its devices with AI capabilities. The company is putting high-end chips, similar to those it designed for the Mac, into cloud computing servers designed to process the most advanced AI tasks coming to Apple devices, according to people familiar with the matter. Simpler AI-related functions will be processed directly on iPhones, iPads and Macs, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plan is still under wraps.

The move is part of Apple's long-awaited push into generative artificial intelligence — the technology behind ChatGPT and other popular tools. The company is playing catch-up with Big Tech rivals in the area, but is set to unveil an ambitious AI strategy at its Worldwide Developers Conference on June 10.

Apple's plan to use its own chips and process AI tasks in the cloud was hatched about three years ago, but the company accelerated the timeline after the AI ​​craze, fueled by ChatGPT d 'OpenAI and Google's Gemini, forcing it to move faster.

The first AI server chips will be the M2 Ultra, which launched last year as part of the Mac Pro and Mac Studio computers, though the company is already eyeing future versions based on the M4 chip.

Apple shares briefly hit a session high of $184.59 in New York after Bloomberg reported the details. The stock is down more than 4% for the year. A representative for Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple declined to comment.

Relatively simple AI tasks, such as providing users with a summary of missed iPhone notifications or incoming text messages, could be handled by the chips in Apple devices. More complicated jobs, such as generating images or summarizing long news articles and crafting long responses to emails, would likely require the cloud-based approach, as would an updated version of Apple's Siri voice assistant.

The move, which comes as part of Apple's fall release of iOS 18, represents a shift for the company. For years, Apple prioritized on-device processing, promoting it as a better way to ensure security and privacy. But people involved in building Apple's server project, codenamed ACDC or Apple Chips in Data Centers, say the components already inside its processors can safeguard users' privacy. The company uses an approach called Secure Enclave that can isolate data from a security breach.

For now, Apple plans to use its own data centers to operate cloud functions, but eventually it will rely on external facilities, as it does with iCloud and other services. The Wall Street Journal previously reported on some aspects of the server plan.

Luca Maestri, Apple's chief financial officer, hinted at the approach on an earnings call last week. “We have our own data center capacity and then we use third-party capacity,” he said after being asked about the company's AI infrastructure. “It's a model that has worked well for us historically and we plan to continue along the same lines in the future.”

Handling AI functions in devices will continue to be an important part of Apple's AI strategy. But some of those capabilities will require its newest chips, like the A18 released in last year's iPhone and the M4 chip that debuted in the iPad Pro earlier this week. These processors include significant upgrades to the so-called neural engine, the part of the chip that handles AI tasks.

Apple is rapidly updating its product line with more powerful chips. First, it brings a next-generation processor, the M4, to its entire range of Mac computers. The Mac mini, iMac and MacBook Pro will get the M4 later this year, and the chip will make its way into the MacBook Air, Mac Studio and Mac Pro next year, Bloomberg News reported in April.

Together, the plans laid the groundwork for Apple to integrate AI into much of its product line. The company will focus on features that make life easier for users as they go about their day, such as making suggestions and offering a personalized experience. Apple has no plans to launch its own ChatGPT-style service, although it has been in discussions about offering this option through a partnership.

Last week, Apple said that the ability to run AI on its devices will help it differentiate itself from its rivals.

“We believe in the transformative power and promise of AI, and we believe we have advantages that will set us apart in this new era, including Apple's unique combination of seamless integration of hardware, software and services,” said the CEO Tim Cook during earnings. named.

Without going into detail, Cook said Apple's in-house semiconductors would give it an edge in this still-nascent field. He added that the company's approach to privacy “undergirds everything we create.”

The company has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the cloud-based initiative over the past three years, the people said. But there are still gaps in its offer. For users who want a chatbot, Apple has held talks with Google and Alphabet Inc's OpenAI. about integrating one into the iPhone and iPad.

Talks with OpenAI have intensified recently, suggesting a partnership is likely. Apple could also offer a variety of options from third-party companies, people familiar with the discussions have said.

© 2024 Bloomberg LP

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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