Marco Arment on Apple and AI

A thoughtful piece by Marco Arment over the weekend, which spawned much discussion:

Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping that these will become the next thing that our devices are for.

If they’re right — and that’s a big “if” — I’m worried for Apple.

Today, Apple’s being led properly day-to-day and doing very well overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritize those big-data AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they’re able to do, despite being very good at it, won’t be enough anymore, and they won’t be able to catch up.

Here’s how Craig Mod put it:

When the interface becomes invisible and data based, Apple dies.

That sounds right to me. But I’m not sure I accept the premise that the rise of AI assistants will decrease in any way our desire for devices with screens. iPhone and Android doomed BlackBerry because people stopped buying BlackBerries. Even if we accept the premise that Google Assistant is going to be a big deal that Apple won’t be able to compete with, I’m not sure how that decreases demand for the devices Apple already makes.

I keep thinking back to the original iPhone introduction in 2007, when Steve Jobs touted their partnership with Google. Watch from around the 50 minute mark. Eric Schmidt even jokes that their partnership was sort of like a merger without actually merging — with Apple doing what Apple does best, and Google doing what Google does best. I don’t know if that was ever tenable in the long run, but it’s interesting to wonder where they’d be today if they had made it work.

Monday, 23 May 2016