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Why Sam Altman, OpenAI might be the biggest winners of Apple’s AI plan

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Sam Altman attends Apple’s WWDC on June 10.
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  • Sam Altman and OpenAI might be the biggest beneficiaries of Apple’s WWDC announcements.
  • Apple announced an integration with OpenAI that will let iOS 18 users ask ChatGPT questions.
  • The partnership makes ChatGPT an option for the billions of prompts that people ask Siri each day.

Forget Tim Cook: OpenAI and Sam Altman might be the biggest winners after Monday’s announcements at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

While Apple announced Apple Intelligence, its in-house artificial intelligence tool, it also said that Apple users will soon be able to use ChatGPT in Siri through an integration it created with OpenAI. The feature is part of Apple’s iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and Sequoia, its computer operating system.

ChatGPT has grabbed the public’s attention since its surprise launch in November 2022. And though it’s still much smaller than search giant Google, users have been turning to the chatbot to get concise answers to questions instead of having to use the right keywords and sift through search results.

Apple wants its customers “to use these external models without having to jump between different tools,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president, software engineering, said in a presentation during WWDC on Monday. You can currently use ChatGPT on your iPhone, for example, but through its app.

With the integration, Siri will draw on ChatGPT to answer questions beyond Apple Intelligence’s capabilities, such as requests for recipes that use certain ingredients, according to Monday’s presentation.

Users will have to give permission for Siri to share their prompt with ChatGPT beforehand, one of several nods to privacy that Apple made as it rolled out its AI features at WWDC.

It’s a big endorsement for OpenAI and its CEO Altman, especially since Apple was reportedly also considering Google’s Gemini earlier this year for the next iPhone release.

It also represents easy access to a massive new user base for ChatGPT. Apple’s iOS is installed on about 2.2 billion devices, Wedbush estimated in a note on Monday. And Siri handles 1.5 billion voice requests daily, Kelsey Peterson, Apple’s director of machine learning and AI, said at WWDC on Monday.

Apple selected OpenAI because ChatGPT provides “world knowledge” that Apple customers can draw on, Apple CEO Tim Cook told The Washington Post in an interview published Tuesday. He added that OpenAI’s refusal to track users’ IP addresses was also a factor that led to the partnership.

“We’re integrating with other people as well,” Cook said, referring to other AI models. “But they’re first, and I think today it’s because they’re best.”

Apple and OpenAI haven’t revealed the financial details behind the deal. OpenAI said in a statement that “the ChatGPT integration, powered by GPT-4o, will come to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS later this year. Users can access it for free without creating an account, and ChatGPT subscribers can connect their accounts and access paid features right from these experiences.”

History shows what Apple can do for the companies it partners with. Google’s 2005 agreement with Apple to make its search engine the default on the Safari internet browser, for instance, paid dividends for Google, especially once Apple started selling iPhones that came with Safari a couple of years later.

Today, Google has that pact to thank in part for its dominance of online search. Monday’s agreement with OpenAI could be the start of something similar.

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