Apple Acquires AI Startup DarwinAI Ahead of OS Updates

Apple Acquires AI Startup DarwinAI Ahead of OS Updates

Apple Inc. has acquired Canadian AI startup – DarwinAI, as the iPhone maker makes a push into generative AI, to bolster its capabilities ahead of its big AI announcement this year.

The company has promised big announcements in AI, and the latest acquisition of the Canadian firm is reportedly part of Apple’s efforts towards creating its own version of Gemini Nano.

A boost to on-device capabilities

The development comes as Apple is adding AI features to its iOS software, which relies on generative AI.

According to a Bloomberg article, Apple quietly made the transaction earlier this year to acquire DarwinAI, which specializes in “making AI models smaller and faster, hinting at on-device capabilities.” The cost of the transaction is speculated to be a $100 million deal “primarily for talent and some intellectual property, suggesting an acqui-hire.”

While Apple has not made an official announcement on that, Bloomberg further revealed dozens of Darwin employees have already migrated to Apple’s AI team, according to people with knowledge of the developments. Among the former Darwin employees is AI researcher Alexander Wong.

Additionally, the Canadian AI startup’s website and social media pages have also been reportedly taken offline after the Apple acquisition.

Apple has kept a tight lid on the transaction only to state that it “buys smaller technology companies from time to time.”

According to Bloomberg, this acquisition could be a signal the tech giant wants to integrate on-device functionalities into its upcoming iPhones and Macs.

What does on-device capabilities entail

Instead of the traditional AI that relies on cloud-based data processing, on-device runs directly on the device, for instance a tablet or smartphone “without needing an internet connection.”

This means all the AI processes “happen on the device instead of on the cloud,” according to GizChina. On-device also privacy in addition to delivering faster processing capabilities.

With on-device processing, it minimizes sending sensitive data to the cloud, in addition to reduced costs since users can access AI features without internet connection.

Last month during an earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted on upcoming announcements “later this year” and the company is expected unveil numerous AI-powered features for its iOS 18 at the WWDC in June.

According to people close to the developments, these will include an upgraded version of Siri, iWork, Apple Music, AI-powered functionalities in Messages, and more.

Also read: Google Accuses Meta of ‘Fragmenting’ the Metaverse After Tie-Up Snub

Apple playing catchup

As the race for AI heated up, Apple seemed to lag behind its peers Google, Microsoft, Meta, and OpenAI. But the company has been making surprise announcements in line with the sector trends, being skewed towards AI developments.

The tech sector has made significant investments into the AI sector, especially generative AI following the launch of ChatGPT and its success. Microsoft for instance has made investments into about eight startups in the AI space. And its deal with OpenAI worth $10 billion was the biggest.

Now, Apple is quietly making its way in the AI sector too to catch-up with its peers in the tech industry.

“We continue to spend a tremendous amount of time and effort and we’re excited to share the details of our ongoing work in that space later this year,” said Cook during a quarterly earnings call with analysts.




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