Apple is dangerously late to the AI party: Can Google, Samsung, and Microsoft seize the moment?

Hear, hear… I believe it’s the first time ever I’m worried Apple might not be able to catch up to the competition, and do it “later but better”.

Historically, Cupertino’s always been the one that waits for new features to mature before bringing them to its products. However, the vast majority of these features have been related to hardware – like the first periscope zoom camera on iPhone 15 Pro Max.But I was checking out Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop, which is powered by AI, and the same type of chip found in smartphones, and it hit me… Apple has fallen behind its entire competition in the area of AI, and (this time) I don’t think it’s “by choice”. Not at all!

Google, Samsung, Microsoft, OpenAI, etc., now offer some compelling, truly practical AI features, which the iPhone, iPad, and Mac simply don’t have. And that’s despite the fact that Apple makes and has access to (arguably) the most powerful mobile chips in the world.

This makes the upcoming WWDC event (starting June 10) one of the most important moments for Apple in a long, long time.

Google, Samsung, Microsoft, OpenAI are running circles around Apple in the area of AI; is it realistic to expect Tim Cook & Co to catch up?

I know we aren’t a “laptop” website, but I must break down a few of the AI features powering Microsoft’s new PCs that stood out as very useful and practical to me…

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Starting with “Copilot”, Microsoft says its new AI will help you find information and complete tasks more efficiently. It can answer your questions, suggest solutions, and even generate creative text formats – in other words, “Copilot” is a twist on ChaptGPT and Google’s Gemini

To get more specific, Recall is (without a doubt) the headlining new AI feature on Windows. “Recall” lets you “retrace your steps” by searching for things like documents, emails or web pages on your PC via an “explorable timeline of your PC’s history”. It’s a supercharged search feature that can search literally everything you’ve seen on your screen in the past day, week, or month.

Live Captions is another impressive AI feature on Windows that can translate 44 languages into English. Whether it’s video calls or dialogue in a video, you can get accurate, real-time subtitles that simply transcribe or translate what you’re seeing/hearing.

Cocreator on Windows is the creative feature that also blew me away thanks to how simple, yet practical it is. Similar to OpenAI’s Dall-E text-to-image model (because it’s powered by it), Image Creator in MS Paint lets you describe/draw something, and watch Cocreator generate an artistic, usable image based on your amateur doodle. How cool and useful is that?! And it’s built right into MS Paint.

Google and Samsung’s latest smartphones make the iPhone look like a dumbphone

As an iPhone 13 user, who also gets to play with the Pixel 8 Pro (or Galaxy S24 Ultra) daily, I won’t get tired of saying how amazing Circle to Search on these two phones is. Circle to Search lets you select whatever you see on your screen and then search the web for it.

If I want to achieve what Circle to Search can do on my iPhone, I must:

  1. Take a screenshot
  2. Go to the Google app
  3. Load the screenshot
  4. Let Google Lens search the web
  5. Go to the Photos app on my iPhone
  6. Delete the screenshot

Browsing Assist is another awesome (Galaxy S24) feature I miss every time I’m reading an article on my iPhone 13 or iPhone 15 Pro. This summarization feature uses on-device AI to analyze the text on a web page and extract the main points. Needless to say, it’s a real time-saver. Almost a must-have feature, which Apple is yet to give us.

Call Assist, which translates your calls in real time is another incredible feature, which I’m yet to use in practice. However, the one I’ve gotten to actually try is the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s ability to translate my WhatsApp messages, and then take my texts (in English) and translate them for whoever is on the other side. All automatically. It’s not perfect but it works across multiple of the popular messaging apps, and it’s certainly a feature I see becoming an essential part of phones very soon.

If I want to translate a WhatsApp conversation on my iPhone, I must:

  1. Copy the text
  2. Open Google Translate
  3. Paste the text
  4. Type whatever I want to say in Google Translate
  5. Copy it
  6. Go back to WhatsApp
  7. Paste
  8. Send

Then there are the more popular Magic Eraser and Samsung’s equivalent Generative Edit, which let you remove someone from the background of your photo, resize objects, and fill in the gaps in photos.

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In the end, the point I made in the beginning stands as the most important takeaway from this story.

Right now, it legitimately seems like there’s one pivotal aspect of next-gen computing that Apple isn’t able to dominate, and that’s AI. In fact, forget “domination”. At this moment, Apple hasn’t even begun playing the AI game, which Google, Samsung, Microsoft & Co are part of.

What went wrong? Well, perhaps Apple spent a little too much time working on the Apple Vision Pro and the canceled Apple Car project in time when AI is more important, practical and exciting. I’m not saying the same won’t be true for AR/VR headsets but that’s certainly not happening anytime soon.

In the area of phones, tablets, and laptops, Google, Samsung, Microsoft have been playing catch-up to Apple in one way or another for decades. For example, Microsoft was able to introduce the new ARM-powered Surface laptop with a similar level of performance + efficiency as the M1 MacBook Air a whopping 4 years later. However, with the advancements in AI, these same companies finally have a clear advantage over Apple.

I guess the question is whether they are going to seize the opportunity to leave Apple in the dust and refuse to collaborate with Cupertino. Or are they going to try and work with Apple by offering their services (like the rumored Google Gemini/OpenAI deals) to make a pretty penny? Either way, it’s going to be very interesting to see how Tim Cook & Co will be able to bring not only the iPhone and iPad, but also the MacBook (which is my daily computer) on par with the competition in terms of AI.

WWDC begins on June 10, and it’s still uncertain if Siri is finally going to become (truly) smart, and whether Apple has been able to close any “AI deals” with Google or OpenAI.

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