Tim Cook: Apple will ‘break new ground in generative AI’ this year

 Tim Cook.
Tim Cook.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is excited about generative AI. And he's betting that later this year, you'll be excited, too, when Apple shows off how it plans to incorporate this technology.

Speaking at Apple’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday (February 28), Cook said that the company is “investing significantly” in AI, as he believes that the technology allows for “incredible breakthrough potential.” And he told shareholders that it won't be long before Apple is ready to show off its take on generative AI.

“Later this year, I look forward to sharing with you the ways we will break new ground in generative AI, another technology we believe can redefine the future,” Cook said.

It's the second time this month Cook has offered an AI teaser, also telling Wall Street analysts during Apple's holiday quarter earnings call that more AI details were coming later on in 2024. Just like then, Cook stopped short Wednesday of saying exactly what Apple could have planned, but added that he and other Apple executives “believe that will unlock transformative opportunities for users when it comes to productivity, problem solving and more.”

Apple's AI plans

Unlike many of its competitors — including Google, Microsoft, and Samsung — Apple has yet to unveil its full AI roadmap. Instead, the company has reiterated that it’s investing heavily in the technology and planning to do more.

There has been some movement on the AI front for Apple, though much of it is based on rumors thus far. Here are the biggest Apple AI moves we've heard about.

Meanwhile, the earliest opportunity to see what Cook's talking about could come at WWDC 2024. That's when developers gather to hear about Apple's planned software releases for the year and how they can take advantage of new features coming to the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch, among other products.

It's the iPhone in particular that could benefit first from what Cook has been hinting at. iOS 18 is likely to get a sneak preview at WWDC, and it's heavily rumored that AI features could be a key part of this year's iPhone software update. Possible changes include a revamped version of Siri as well as the kind of generative editing tools already featured on devices like the Samsung Galaxy S24 and Google Pixel 8.

More fodder for Apple's AI focus emerged earlier this week, when reports surfaced that Apple was disbanding Apple Car initiative and re-assigning many team members to Apple’s experimental generative AI division.

AI carries its own share of potential pitfalls around ethics, inclusion, and risks. At Wednesday's Apple shareholder meeting, the AFL-CIO’s pension trust had issued a proposal  that would have required Apple to issue a report on its ethical use of AI. The AFL-CIO argued that “AI systems should not be trained on copyrighted works, or the voices, likenesses and performances of professional performers, without transparency, consent and compensation to creators and rights holders.”

For its part, Apple opposed the proposal, saying that passing the measure would expose the company to competitive risk, with other companies reading the report and determining the company’s plans. Apple shareholders rejected the AFL-CIO’s proposal.

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