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  • Writer's pictureFelix Jones

Apple’s Hidden Acquisitions

Developments in AI have rapidly increased over the past few years, leading to a greater understanding of its capabilities amongst the general public, and a higher demand for goods that utilise its capabilities. Amongst the big tech companies, Google and Microsoft have both been very open and quick-moving in their AI products and implementations, with Microsoft heavily invested in Open AI and Google releasing Bard and owning DeepMind, an AI research laboratory. Moreover, with the introduction of the Rabbit R1, as well as Samsung implementing AI capabilities in their S24 phone, it begs the question of how Apple is positioning itself within these developments.


Unknown to many, Apple acquired 32 AI start-ups in 2023, more than any other tech giant, purchasing companies such as WaveOne, Emotient, Laserlike, Drive.AI and AI.Music so they can benefit from the companies’ fresh innovation and talent. More specifically, these acquired companies specialise in technologies such as Self-driving AI, voice design, music generation and image recognition, highlighting the wide array of features that Apple may be seeking to improve and implement into future products. Furthermore, Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities reports Apple to have spent over $10 billion on AI research and development in the past few years, with a focus on providing the foundation for developers to build AI apps, thus allowing for an AI app store, similar to that of the GPT store but native to the iPhone and thus more embedded. 


Moreover, Apple is reportedly developing their own generative AI model called “Ajax” in a bid to rival the likes of Bard and Chat GPT and thoroughly integrate machine learning capabilities into all its products. Information on these developments by Apple is far more limited than that of Microsoft and Google, with Apple seemingly deciding to work behind the scenes within AI, perhaps feeling that this relative anonymity can give them a competitive advantage. A key area of focus for Apple is that of Siri, with its underwhelming performance now more apparent due to the capabilities shown by Chat GPT, however, there also remains a large opportunity for implementing AI capabilities within Siri, something many feel Apple are working on and will formally release in late 2024.


Despite, Apple’s relative silence within this area, it should be noted that they did not invent the smartphone, graphical interface, tablet, or smartwatch. Yet, they did it better than others, utilising the technologies that had become available to produce revolutionary products. Therefore, it can be understood why many are soon expecting Apple to make a decisive, product-focused play within this field, especially given their substantial investments into AI start-ups and reported planned spending of $1 billion per year into Generative AI (as per Bloomberg), although many even feel this figure is an understatement. Moreover, with Tim Cook reportedly telling investors that “we tend to announce things as they come to market, and that’s our m.o., and I’d like to stick to that”, it’s apparent that this public silence by Apple does not equate to a lack of action or success behind the scenes, therefore when they do make a move, it will likely be a decisive and influential one.


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