Apple, Google Talks Could Bring Gemini AI to the iPhone

Apple and Google are huddling over a potential deal to bring the search king’s Gemini generative AI offerings to the iPhone.

The negotiations, first reported by Bloomberg on Monday, aim to let Apple license Gemini’s set of AI models to drive some new features for the iPhone later this year.

While a deal would give Gemini a key edge with billions of potential users, Bloomberg noted, it also may be a sign that Apple isn’t as far along with its AI efforts as some might have hoped.

“Apple appears to be behind its competitors in addressing generative AI, and this is partly because the pace of innovation has been so high that the timings of its yearly developer conference in summer and product release in autumn have created a mismatch at the current pace in the AI race,” said Paul Schell, an industry analyst with global technology intelligence firm ABI Research.

That’s not to say Apple hasn’t been busy developing its AI chops. “Behind the scenes, Apple has been busy developing its on-device generative AI capabilities and acquiring companies that will help it advance that technology — most recently with the acquisition of DarwinAI,” Schell told TechNewsWorld.

“Apple also has a Machine Learning Research division devoted to advancing its capabilities in the area, and Tim Cook has talked up generative AI in anticipation of iOS 18,” he added.

Part of Overall AI Strategy

“Apple is way behind on AI,” declared Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group, an advisory services firm in Bend, Ore.

“That’s kind of amazing,” he told TechNewsWorld, “since Siri was one of the first digital assistants in the market, but once they launched it, they seemed to lose interest, which is why they are so far behind.”

A deal with Google could mesh with Apple’s overall AI strategy, noted William Kerwin, an equity analyst with Morningstar Research Services in Chicago.

“Apple has taken a slow approach to any announcements around generative AI, which we see as its normal strategy,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Apple has always been a premium follower to markets, never focusing on being first but focusing on putting out superior products.”

“We haven’t expected Apple to develop a proprietary generative AI model to license out, but focus on how to integrate generative AI into its products,” he said. “This could be small Apple-built models living on edge, or larger cloud-based models.”

“A potential licensing agreement with Google Gemini would align with this — outsourcing the model itself but focusing on integrating it into products like Siri.”

Beneficial to Apple and Google

Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a technology advisory firm in San Jose, Calif., pointed out that Apple has been using AI in products since they introduced the Knowledge Navigator in 1987. AI is key to both Siri and Maps, he added, and Apple has home-grown technology to deliver AI-based apps and solutions.

“However, to deliver in-depth generative AI architecture on their own is expensive, and those base AI architectures are already built and can be licensed,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Even if Apple had its own Gemini-level model, it probably would not have the infrastructure to serve its massive base of customers,” he explained. “It is highly plausible that Apple could license a base generative AI architecture from another company and build even deeper and more Apple-specific products on that AI engine.”

A Gemini licensing deal could be beneficial to both Apple and Google.

“Licensing Gemini would enable Apple to make up considerable lost time in its own lagging AI development efforts,” said Charles King, the principal analyst at Pund-IT, a technology advisory firm in Hayward, Calif.

In addition, he told TechNewsWorld, “By using a vetted third-party technology to train its AI systems, Apple will be able to preserve its well-deserved rep for honoring customers’ privacy.”

Rise of On-Device AI

“A lot of the AI models out there now require cloud access, so there’s a lot of concerns about divulging private information,” added Ross Rubin, the principal analyst at Reticle Research, a consumer technology advisory firm in New York City.

“Google has a flavor of Gemini — Gemini Nano — that may appeal to Apple because it can run locally,” he told TechNewsWorld. “That’s one way to preserve privacy and have the benefits of generative AI.”

ABI’s Schell pointed out that Google is ahead of the pack with its Gemini family of models, which have already been deployed to run entirely on some of its Pixel phones, as well as on certain Samsung Galaxy devices. “By partnering with Google, Apple would be able to offer a relatively mature generative AI model to its customers on some or all of its devices,” he said.

“All major chipset vendors and OEMs are pivoting towards on-device generative AI as its productivity-enhancing data privacy value proposition is very convincing, and this is particularly relevant given Apple’s legacy in data privacy leadership,” he added.

“As such,” he continued, “I expect a host of significant announcements around on-device generative AI at this year’s WWDC applying to Apple’s PC, tablet, and smartphone offerings.” Apple’s WWDC — World Wide Developers Conference — usually occurs in June.

Boon to Apple Users

Apple users could benefit from a Gemini licensing deal because it integrates Google’s advanced search algorithms into their ecosystem, thereby enriching search functionality, maintained Mark N. Vena, president and principal analyst at SmartTech Research in San Jose, Calif.

“It promotes interoperability, enabling seamless integration between Apple’s ecosystem and Google services and fostering convenience for users,” he told TechNewsWorld, “and it could potentially reduce development costs and time-to-market for Apple, as it could utilize Google’s proven technology instead of building a similar capability from scratch.”

“It would obviously provide Apple with a host of capabilities it doesn’t seem to currently own, and Google would get revenue and a marquee licensing partner,” Greg Sterling, co-founder of Near Media, a news, commentary and analysis website, told TechNewsWorld.

How much revenue Google — which pays Apple billions a year to be the Safari web browser’s default search engine — would get from a licensing deal is an intriguing question.

“There may not be any licensing money,” Rubin suggested. “Google pays Apple for the privilege of running search on Apple’s platforms. The payment that Google gets is access to anonymized data for iPhone users, which gives them a holistic view of what people are doing on mobile. Maybe Google would be willing to offer their technology for free for the benefit of continuing to update their AI engine.”

Apple and Google did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

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