Apple’s AI Plans Were Kickstarted by Craig Federighi’s Copilot Experiment

craig federighi copilot experiment

A new report from The Wall Street Journal reveals how Apple decided to hop on the AI trend, which later became the company’s prime focus for the upcoming iOS 18. It mentions that Apple’s AI ambitions trace back to when Apple’s SVP of software, Craig Federighi, first experimented with GitHub Copilot, an experience that made him appreciate generative AI.

It’s interesting to stumble upon this story, especially as we eagerly anticipate the next round of software upgrades for iPhones, Macs, Vision Pro, and more at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), scheduled from June 10 to June 14.

WSJ reports that Federighi became interested in AI after trying out Microsoft’s famous Copilot assistant, built on OpenAI — the parent of ChatGPT. He reportedly experimented with this technology in December 2022 — a month after OpenAI had launched ChatGPT — and soon recorded the fastest signups for any internet platform, only to be surpassed by Instagram Threads later. He was quite impressed with it. 

At that point, he directed engineering teams to explore integrating AI-powered features into Apple’s apps. The report underscores the previous issues between Federighi’s OS team and John Giannandrea’s AI/ML team at Apple. Undoubtedly, there would have been challenges stemming from cultural differences and other factors.

Federighi’s team preferred to develop their image and video recognition tools separately. Meanwhile, Giannandrea’s team had trouble getting enough computing power. These issues seem to have happened before 2022, but now it looks like Giannandrea and Federighi are working together better.

Moreover, about a year after Federighi first got his hands on Copilot, Tim Cook confirmed that Apple is getting serious about AI as the company raised its R&D budget during an earnings call. This was shortly followed by Apple holding talks with major publishers such as Condé, NBC News, and IAC to train its AI dataset. In related news, Apple is likely to announce a deal with OpenAI during the keynote event of WWDC.

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