Will AI end Apple’s existential crisis?


Consider this: Apple has been working with artificial intelligence (AI) in specific domains for many years. Then OpenAI’s ChatGPT emerged and made Apple look bad. Today as WWDC approaches, the company is expected to deliver souped-up AI across all its devices — and as competitors struggle to catch up in processor design, we expect fresh M4 Macs to appear this fall.

What this means is that Apple may soon offer computationally advanced mass market computers in a range of configurations (iPhone, iPad, Mac, Vision Pro), software with built-in AI to run on those devices, and the integration between hardware, software, and operating systems it needs to make everything work pretty well.


Apple needs to succeed in this gamble. Stung by claims it has fallen behind in AI development, the company wants to regain lost face and restore its reputation at the leading edge of tech. 

That’s not the only reason. With Apple’s former chief designer, Jony Ive, allegedly working with OpenAI’s Sam Altman to design and build what is already being called “the iPhone of AI” and new devices such as Humane’s AI Pin generating interest, the iPhone maker must urgently also seek to consolidate its existing reputation for cutting-edge consumer products. 

Together, both challenges add up to more than the sum of their parts; they also emerge within the framework of multiple existential challenges at the company. Not only is it pressed by the need to burnish its reputation as a tech powerhouse, but it is also enduring heavy-handed regulation as governments seek to break the hold of Big Tech firms over the industry.

Move faster

This even extends to AI. In the UK, the Competition Markets Authority has already begun monitoring Big Tech and its place in the evolving AI market, which will prompt further evolution in the space as companies seek to build solid presences there.

Apple also faces the same existential challenges as everyone else, including the impact of climate change and its already visible effect on crop yields, economic weakness in many markets, and increasing international tension eroding what has been a happy and mutually profitable relationship with China.

Any of these many problems is challenging in its own right, but together they represent a range of long-term threats to the future of the company.

Apple is no stranger to existential threat. Surviving these is core to the company’s own history, and the track record of triumph in adversity it possesses is second to few. But all these threats need a response, and once again Apple Silicon could turn out to be the wind beneath the company’s wings.

Move fast, make things

That Apple already plans M4 Macs isn’t terribly surprising. The cadence of its Mac processor upgrades seems to be around 12 to 18 months across the four processors in any M range (M-, M- Pro, M- Max, and M- Ultra). With each processor being around 20% improved on the previous generation, the company is making huge strides, setting industry expectations for computational performance and energy requirements for the chip price.

The processors also boast on-chip GPUs and Neural Engines, meaning that all existing Macs already have plenty of computational capability to pump into AI.

Apple Silicon isn’t just inside Macs, either. You also find it inside iPhones. We already anticipate Apple will field the world’s biggest personal AI ecosystem once it ships iOS 18 this fall, and there are claims the next iPhone will also deliver a big bump in computational performance. 

Playing its hand

With WWDC weeks away, it’s becoming clear how Apple is going to approach its next big release cycle. First, it will woo users back to that loving feeling with new and hopefully powerful AI features in its operating systems.

Second, it will introduce iPhones, iPads, and Macs that are faster than any other devices in their class and built to be perfectly capable of demanding generative AI (genAI) tasks on the device itself. We may even see an App Store for AI, where Apple device users can pick and choose between third-party solutions as they seek the perfect smart companion. 

If Apple gets this right, it will convince its already loyal audiences to stick with its hardware, enabling it to continue building sales of additional products and services to a happy user audience. Burnished by the rich patina of AI, iPhones and Macs will remain seriously attractive tools for work and play, and even as economic challenges continue Apple will be able to maintain a strong bottom line.

But if Apple doesn’t make the grade, it will find itself with limited time to turn the Cupertino spaceship around, though it should be more than adequately cushioned for a soft landing.


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Apple, Artificial Intelligence, Generative AI, iOS, Mac, Vendors and Providers

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