Everyone has been waiting for Tim Cook to talk about Apple's foray into AI.
On Thursday, he said the company had big plans for AI that it would share later this year.
The comments come as Apple's Big Tech rivals benefit from their early moves in the technology.
It's been a long time coming, but Tim Cook is finally talking about artificial intelligence on his own terms.
The Apple CEO has repeatedly fielded questions on the breakthrough technology, but he announced Thursday that the iPhone maker's foray into generative AI would begin soon.
"As we look ahead, we will continue to invest in these and other technologies that will shape the future," he said in a prepared speech delivered at the opening of the company's fourth-quarter earnings call.
"That includes artificial intelligence, where we continue to spend a tremendous amount of time and effort," he said, "and we're excited to share the details of our ongoing work in that space later this year."
His comments came on the eve of the launch of the $3,500 Vision Pro headset as the company posted a bumper quarter that beat analysts' expectations.
But it's the revelation that Apple plans to unveil its generative-AI efforts this year that will undoubtedly have excited investors the most.
AI has dominated the conversation around the tech sector since the launch of ChatGPT. Its presence on earnings calls has even ballooned, with mentions of AI increasing 10 times over in the past year, according to S&P Global.
In addition, Apple's Big Tech rivals — from Google and Meta to Microsoft and Amazon — have all talked up their generative-AI capabilities and how they plan to use them to drive efficiencies, productivity, and growth.
Indeed, many are already benefiting from it.
Meta shares soared 16% in premarket trading on Friday after it reported earnings on the same date as Apple. The rise was fueled by Meta's first dividend as well as its plans to ramp up AI investment in Llama, its open-source AI model, and other areas.
"Moving forward, a major goal will be building the most popular and most advanced AI products and services," Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on an earnings call this week.
Last month, he announced plans to stockpile up to 600,000 chips needed to power AI by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the OpenAI backer Microsoft reported an 18% year-on-year jump in quarterly revenue to $62 billion. CEO Satya Nadella described the period as one in which the company "moved from talking about AI to applying AI at scale."
The Apple MO in action
What Apple's play on AI will be is not clear just yet.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported last year that Apple's secretive AI efforts, led by the senior vice presidents John Giannandrea and Craig Federighi, were far-reaching and involved a large language model called Ajax, as well as a chatbot similar to ChatGPT.
But as has always been the case with Apple, the company doesn't like to talk about something publicly unless it's ready to be shown off.
Cook said on Thursday: "Our MO, if you will, has always been to do work and then talk about work and not to get out in front of ourselves."
Whether that's a convenient way to disguise the lack of announcements on AI from Apple compared with everyone else is a fair question. But investors will hope something really is coming.
For all the hype around the Vision Pro, the technology is expensive and has yet to get approval from a mass-market audience.
A slowdown in China is also a growing concern, with iPhone sales being pressured by the rise of more advanced smartphones from domestic players such as Huawei.
Sales in the greater China region were down from $24 billion in the final quarter of 2022 to $20.8 billion in 2023, taking some of the shine from Apple's fourth quarter and contributing to its share price's 3% slump in after-hours trading.
That said, the mere mention of AI from the company is a sign that the company has a big plan coming for the technology.
Cook said in response to a question on AI from Goldman Sachs' Mike Ng: "We've got some things that we are incredibly excited about that we'll be talking about later this year."
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