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Apple CEO Tim Cook (L); John Giannandrea (C), senior vice president of machine learning and AI strategy; and Craig Federighi (R), senior vice president of software engineering, speak during Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in Cupertino, California, on June 10, 2024.

Nic Coury | AFP | Getty Images

Apple fully embraced artificial intelligence on Monday, as company executives explained the features and reasoning behind Apple Intelligence, the company’s new AI software suite.

But Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference launch event was carefully crafted to distinguish the iPhone maker from current AI leaders, such as Microsoft and Google, at a panel discussion Monday afternoon.

Software chief Craig Federighi and AI chief John Giannandrea said during the panel that Apple has a different approach to the technology than its Silicon Valley rivals. Unlike companies that are building AI for a broad range of products, Apple is instead focused only on the devices it sells and the personal data that AI could use.

Apple revealed a more limited approach that eschews future-focused thinking about the potential of the technology in favor of small tasks that can be done now without burning up battery life.

“We think AI’s role is not to replace our users but to empower them,” Federighi said.

Apple’s AI may be the first that its over 2 billion users interact with. If its AI features are favored over cloud-based competition from Microsoft or Google, it could change how billions of dollars in AI infrastructure per year is built and shift the direction of products that use the technology.

Much of the AI development that has captured investor and technological interest has focused on building or securing powerful supercomputers equipped with Nvidia chips to develop even more power-hungry AI models. In this scenario, users access the AI software by communicating with equally powerful servers over the web.

Apple’s AI is mostly on your device

Apple Intelligence was unveiled during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in Cupertino, California, on June 10, 2024.

Source: Apple Inc.

Apple’s vision for AI isn’t about one big model — it’s a slew of smaller models that don’t require the same amount of computing power and memory, running on Apple’s devices and chips themselves. If the AI on the phone can’t do it, then Apple, or an app using Apple’s tools, reaches out to the cloud to access a larger AI model. Apple partnered with OpenAI, for example, to give users access to ChatGPT if Siri can’t provide an answer. These features come into play only if users allow it.

Apple executives don’t refer to this strategy as using one or multiple models. Instead, they package it as just “Apple Intelligence.”

“We think that the right approach to this is to have a series of different models and different sizes for different use cases,” Giannandrea said.

Giannandrea said the company worked to create a 3-billion parameter model as part of Apple Intelligence. ChatGPT’s GPT-3 model from 2020, in comparison, is much larger, at 175 billion parameters. The more parameters, the more memory and computing power needed to run the model.

Apple’s approach is faster than the cloud-based options and has privacy benefits. However, there can be issues when the models are too small to get anything done. Apple is betting that through a user’s iPhone, its AI can tap into personal data about appointments, location, and what the user is doing. One example provided by Federighi is that his phone knows who his daughter is.

Apple also says it’s making sure its small models work only on tasks they can excel at, rather than give users an open-ended chatbot interface.

“There’s a critical extra step, which is we’re not taking this teenager and telling him to go fly an airplane,” Federighi said.

Many AI features Apple announced on Monday are similar to products already announced this year. Apple’s AI can summarize and rewrite documents, generate small images, and translate conversations in real time. One notable feature will enable users to generate new emojis using AI without connecting to the internet. The new features will be released this fall in a beta version.

Apple’s approach to privacy

Private Cloud Compute unveiled during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in Cupertino, California, on June 10, 2024.

Source: Apple Inc.

Privacy will be a challenge for Apple as it embraces AI. It has used privacy as one of its primary marketing tools for years, highlighting that Apple’s business model doesn’t require ad targeting and that it has the best interests of its users in mind versus data brokers and spammers.

Other AI companies collect user data and store it to improve their software, a practice that doesn’t fit Apple’s current privacy policies. Much of Apple’s presentation on Monday pointed to steps the company has taken to prevent the impression that it’s hoovering up user data to improve its AI.

“We’re not going to take that data and go send it to some cloud somewhere,” Giannandrea said. “Because we want everything to be very private, whether it’s running locally or on a cloud computing service, and that’s the way we want it so we can use your most personal data.”

Apple didn’t detail what data was used to train its AI models, beyond that it uses files scraped from the public web in addition to licensed data, such as news archives and stock photography.

Apple said it developed its own servers using its Apple chips, called Apple Private Cloud, to prevent user data sent back to an AI server from being stored or re-used. It will allow third parties to inspect the software, a notable move for a secrecy-focused company that usually doesn’t provide information about its infrastructure.

“Even if a company maybe makes a promise and says, ‘Well, hey, look, we’re not going to do anything with the data.’ You have no way to verify that,” Federighi said, explaining why Apple will allow inspection of its AI server software.

More AI to come

ChatGPT integration with Apple iOS 18 announced during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in Cupertino, California, on June 10, 2024.

Source: Apple Inc.

At times, Apple officials seemed to downplay how big a shift this is in the company’s AI strategy, saying that it’s a continuation of the machine learning work the company has already done to edit photos or transcribe text, or to put AI-specific blocks on its chips.

“It’s only recently that others are starting to suddenly claim like there’s some new category there,” Federighi said. “But those are things we’ve been shipping for a long time.”

However, Apple didn’t bet it all on a single approach. It will offer ChatGPT built into its operating systems, allowing users to prompt OpenAI’s model for free and offering users a more powerful and larger AI model. However, OpenAI’s ChatGPT will be marked in Apple’s software, telling users that data will be sent to OpenAI servers, which run on Microsoft’s cloud. Answers will indicate that they were generated by ChatGPT, too, just in case they go off the rails.

Apple said it could offer different models in the future, signaling that Apple Intelligence is not the only AI system it expects its customers to use. Federighi said that one day some of its customers might want a medical AI system or legal AI model built into Apple products, for example. Or maybe one of Google’s models.

“We’re going to look forward to doing integrations with models like Google Gemini, for instance, in the future. I mean, nothing to announce right now,” Federighi said. “But that’s our direction.”

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Tesla has downsized by at least 14% this year after Elon Musk said layoffs would exceed 10%

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Tesla has downsized by at least 14% this year after Elon Musk said layoffs would exceed 10%

Chief Technology Officer of X Elon Musk speaks onstage during the “Exploring the New Frontiers of Innovation: Mark Read in Conversation with Elon Musk” session at the Lumiere Theatre during the Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity 2024 – Day Three on June 19, 2024 in Cannes, France. 

Richard Bord | Wireimage | Getty Images

Tesla’s hefty downsizing in 2023 has reduced its global head count to just over 121,000 people, including temporary workers, internal records suggest, indicating that the automaker has slashed more than 14% of its workforce so far this year.

The latest figure is not from precise payroll data, but from the number of people who are on Tesla’s “everybody” email distribution list as of June 17, a tally viewed by CNBC.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent an email to “everybody” that day. He told employees, “Over the next few weeks, Tesla will be doing a comprehensive review to provide stock options grants for exceptional performance.” He added that options grants will also be awarded to “anyone who does something outstanding for the company.” Tesla’s plan to reinstitute options grants, after previously pausing performance-based equity awards, was reported first by Reuters.

Tesla’s layoffs announcement landed in April, when Musk sent out a companywide email telling employees that the automaker would be cutting more than 10% of its staff. Layoffs at that point were already underway.

Bloomberg reported that Musk was aiming for a 20% staff cut. Musk indicated that the number could be even bigger. On the company’s first-quarter earnings call later in April, he said Tesla had reached an inefficiency level of 25% to 30% after “a long period of prosperity” that began in 2019.

“We’ve made some corrections along the way,” Musk said on the call. “But it is time to reorganize the company for the next phase of growth.”

In a filing for the fourth quarter, Tesla said its employee head count worldwide at the end of December was 140,473, a number that represents salaried and hourly staffers. The “everybody” email list includes temporary workers. At around 121,000, that suggests Tesla has reduced overall headcount by at least 14% since the end of 2023.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In at least one instance, Musk’s head-count reductions went too far. Tesla dismantled its Supercharging team, which consisted of hundreds of employees, including its leader, Rebecca Tinucci. The company later hired some of those people back, according to posts on LinkedIn.

The broader cuts coincide with a slippage in sales at Tesla as the company reckons with an aging lineup of electric vehicles and increased competition in China as well as brand deterioration that a recent survey attributed partly to Musk’s “antics” and “political rants.” For the first quarter, Tesla reported a 9% drop in annual revenue, the biggest decline since 2012.

Across the auto industry, EV sales growth slowed this year after two years of rapid expansion. The slide was particularly acute for Tesla, whose Model Y was the top-selling car worldwide in 2023.

A Tesla employee, who asked not to be named in order to discuss sensitive internal issues, told CNBC that some factory workers are fearful more layoffs could follow in July, depending on second-quarter results.

A production and deliveries report for the second quarter is expected from Tesla during the first week of July.

Musk has promised investors the company will soon publish a new “Master Plan,” which would be his fourth, and that Tesla will reveal its design for a “dedicated robotaxi” on Aug. 8.

Tesla shares were little changed on Friday at $181.71. The stock is down 27% this year, while the Nasdaq is up 18%.

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Apple Intelligence won’t launch in EU in 2024 due to antitrust regulation, company says

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Apple Intelligence won't launch in EU in 2024 due to antitrust regulation, company says

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California, US, on Monday, June 10, 2024. 

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple said Friday it won’t release three recently announced features, including its flagship “Apple Intelligence” AI product, in the European Union in 2024 due to “regulatory uncertainties” stemming from the bloc’s Digital Markets Act antitrust regulation.

Apple said in a statement that the features — Apple Intelligence, iPhone Mirroring, and enhancements to its SharePlay screen-sharing product — won’t be available to EU customers due to Apple’s belief “that the interoperability requirements of the DMA could force us to compromise the integrity of our products in ways that risk user privacy and data security.”

The EU passed the DMA in 2023, spurred by concerns that a handful of major technology companies such as Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Meta, Microsoft and TikTok parent ByteDance were acting as “gatekeepers” in preventing smaller firms from competing. Among other things, DMA requires that basic functionalities work across competing devices and ecosystems.

The interoperability requirements apply to iPhones and iPads. But Macs are affected by the DMA because iPhone Mirroring allows users to replicate the screen of an iPhone on the screen of a Mac.

The loss of the company’s AI product could be a disappointment to consumers. Apple Intelligence can proofread writing or even rewrite it in a friendly or professional tone. It can create custom emoji called Genmoji, search through an iPhone for specific messages from someone, summarize and transcribe phone calls and show priority notifications. The company also announced a partnership with OpenAI and a roadmap to other models being added to the platform.

Apple shares were largely flat on the news. Apple saw 2023 net sales of $94.3 billion in Europe, just under a quarter of its worldwide net sales. Apple Intelligence also won’t be available in Greater China, which accounted for $72.6 billion of its 2023 sales.

The company said it will work with the European Union “in an attempt to find a solution that would enable us to deliver these features to our EU customers without compromising their safety.”

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SoftBank CEO says AI that is 10,000 times smarter than humans will come out in 10 years

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SoftBank CEO says AI that is 10,000 times smarter than humans will come out in 10 years

Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank Group Corp., speaks during the company’s annual general meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, June 20, 2024. Son sketched out ambitions to help create AI thousands of times smarter than any human, making his most grandiose pronouncements since the Japanese conglomerate began taking steps to shore up its finances following a series of ill-timed startup bets. 

Kosuke Okahara | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Artificial intelligence that is 10,000 times smarter than humans will be here in 10 years, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said on Friday, in a rare public appearance during which he questioned his own purpose in life.

Son laid out his vision for a world featuring artificial super intelligence, or ASI, as he dubbed it.

The CEO first talked about another term — artificial general intelligence, or AGI — which broadly refers to AI that is smarter than humans. Son said this tech is likely to be one to 10 times smarter than humans and will arrive in the next three-to-five years, earlier than he had anticipated.

But if AGI is not much smarter than humans, “then we don’t need to change the way of living, we don’t need to change the structure of human lifestyle,” Son said, according to a live translation of his comments in Japanese, which were delivered during SoftBank’s annual general meeting of shareholders.

“But when it comes to ASI it’s a totally different story. [With] ASI, you will see a big improvement.”

Son discussed how the future will hold various ASI models that interact with each other, like neurons in a human brain. This will lead to AI that is 10,000 times smarter than any human genius, according to Son.

SoftBank shares closed down more than 3% in Japan, following the meeting.

Son is SoftBank’s founder, who rose to prominence after an early and profitable investment in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. He positioned SoftBank as a tech visionary with the 2017 launch of the Vision Fund, a massive investment fund focused on backing tech firms. While some of the bets were successful, there were also many high-profile failures, such as office sharing company WeWork.

After posting then-record financial losses at Vision Fund in 2022, Son said that SoftBank would go into “defense” mode and be more conservative with its investments. In 2023, the Vision Fund posted a new record loss, with Son shortly after saying that SoftBank would now shift into “offense,” because he was excited about the investment opportunities in AI.

Son has been broadly out of the public eye since then.

He returned to the spotlight on Friday to deliver a speech that was full of existential questions.

“Two years ago, I am getting old, rest of my life is limited, but I haven’t done anything yet and I cried so hard,” Son said, suggesting he feels he hasn’t achieved anything of consequence to date.

He added that he had now found SoftBank’s mission, which is the “evolution of humanity.” He also said he has discovered his own purpose in life.

“SoftBank was founded for what purpose? For what purpose was Masa Son born? It may sound strange, but I think I was born to realize ASI. I am super serious about it,” Son said.

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