Apple has performed pretty well for itself in these last few years. It has got healthy revenue, cash in the bank, and yet sets the bar for as to what a modern smartphone must appear like. But while the iPhone singularly is crucial, both to the company and to the category of devices it is inspired over the last decade, the tech companies now are jockeying to usher in the next wave of personal computing.
The consensus artificial intelligence is going to be the main differentiator with each device, whether it is a light bulb or a laptop—able to speak to each other and make decisions to suit their owners. Big technology firms such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are saying that they now are “AI-first companies.” That is a bad news for Apple.
The artificial intelligence research and implementation are dominated by Google. Its free AI tools for the developers are used way more than the ones from any competitor; all its products use AI in some form, from Gmail to search and now it is attacking the smartphone market with the well-received line of Pixel phones and Home smart speakers, both making their operations around the Google’s voice assistant.
Amazon has made a massive business out of selling server space for the AI applications and has established dominance in the smart speaker market with Echo devices and its virtual personal assistant Alexa. The most ambitious projects of the company such as a physical store with no human cashiers hinge on greater advancements in artificial intelligence.
CEO Satya Nadella, at Microsoft quickly has reorganized the company to get AI closer to its key Windows and Office products. The company even benefits from the capability of putting its virtual personal assistant, Cortana, on to more than 600 million machines.
This is a battle that Apple was supposed to win. In the year 2011, while Google was just beginning to form its now-massive AI team and the Amazon executives were pitching the Echo smart speaker, Apple had acquired a startup spun out of the SRI Labs known as Siri. It was a one-of-a-kind virtual personal assistant that the company quickly ported into the iPhone 4S, its latest smartphone.
But the roll out of the technology was buggy, and year after year Siri witnessed a few meaningful updates. The engineers working on the project said later that the original goal was to become the “App Store for AI,” but the core development problems compelled that dream to the side. AI was not being given priority at Apple in the same way that it was being given to the other companies.
From the late 1990s, if not the dominant company overall, Apple has been the dominant consumer-electronics company. In the year 1998, it revitalized its personal computers with the colorful iMac after Steve Jobs retook the helm. It upended the musical industry by introducing the iTunes and iPod and did the same thing for the web with the iPhone, the App Store, and its many mobile apps in the year 2007. During this period, its products were a perfect melding of top-notch and expensive software and hardware designed to obtain the best out of the technology. Now, the products of the company are shipping with errors and bugs at an unprecedented rate.