The buzzword for 2017 is two words. AI. Artificial intelligence. To hear the technology writers tell the story, Apple is so far behind in the AI race it can never catch up. Ever. Never.
Apple seems to be behind all the time until it’s not. Apple Stores. iPod. iTunes. iTunes Music Store. iPhone. iPad. Watch. All behind until there were leading their respective industry segments into the future.
So, regardless of what you read from members of the technorati elite politburo and their nattering nabobs of negativism, it’s unlike Apple is behind in AI but might be ready for a leap into the 21st century thanks to a little known purchase the company made a few years ago.
About a year after Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 it bought a chip design company called P.A. Semi. That got Apple started on the road to designing its own CPUs for iPhone and iPad; chips that run rings around the smartphone and tablet competition and further differentiate Apple’s efforts in the mobile device industry.
Yes, designing custom chips is a bit thing at Apple, all the smart chip designers are flocking to Cupertino, and it comes at exactly the same time when Intel struggles to get new versions and upgrades out the door. Chips? Yes, the Mac is beholden to Intel’s timetables and pricing, but Apple’s own chip designs are beginning to make a name for the company.
For example, Apple Watch features an Apple-designed CPU. Those clever and hot selling AirPods? You guessed it. They have an Apple-designed chip which helps to keep AirPods connected. The MacBook Pro with Touch ID and TouchBar? Apple chips.
Now, here’s where it starts to get interesting. Artificial intelligence and machine learning requires that a company suck up as much data as possible from users. Google does it. Amazon does. Many companies do it because customers are sheeple and don’t know their personal privacy is being invaded at an increasing pace. All that stolen data requires umpteen gazillion horsepower to massage and that means removing the data from each customer’s device.
Apple may have a better way.
Speech recognition and facial recognition, and interaction with Siri as a good example, requires more horsepower than a single device can provide, which explains why Google, Amazon, and other AI competitors pull data from you and store it on their own servers.
Apple may have a better way.
Our favorite Mac and iPhone company designs its own chips, so now there’s word on the streets that a new design called Apple Neural Engine will show up on iPhones, iPads, and other devices in the future. Instead of pulling information from you and sending it to a big server farm somewhere, Apple Neural Engine could handle the heavy lifting right on your iPhone, iPad, Watch, Mac, or whatever device Apple thinks it needs to become a player in artificial intelligence.
In the end, we would get devices that are very smart, very fast at certain chores like face recognition, voice recognition, and the like, yet sip battery juice, and keep what it learns private. You know that Google and Amazon have a profile of everything you do while you’re online, right? When a court or law enforcement officials demand the data, they’ll cough it up in a heartbeat. If the important data is on your iPhone it could be destroyed in an instant if the wrong voice or wrong face attempts to gain entry.
Apple spent less than 10-percent of the price it paid for Beats Electronics headphone business than it did on P.A. Semi. That smaller purchase seems to be paying bigger dividends these days.