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Craig Federighi ignited Apple's AI efforts after using Microsoft's Copilot

Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi

Despite years of working to develop AI systems, it wasn't until Christmas 2022 when Craig Federighi played with Copilot that the company truly got behind the idea.

The conventional wisdom is that Apple is far behind the rest of the technology industry in its use and deployment of AI. That has seemed nonsensical since Apple has had Siri for almost 15 years, and a head of AI since 2018.

However, a new report from the Wall Street Journal claims that despite all these years working on Machine Learning, and despite having ex-Google AI chief John Giannandrea, it could be true that Apple is substantially behind. Reportedly, Giannandrea and his team have struggled to fit in with Apple, and to get AI implemented.

A disconnect from a highly deadline-focused Apple and the more Google-like relaxed team run by Giannandrea, prevented the company forming a cohesive, coherent AI plan. Giannandrea was also reportedly held back by a lack of resources given to him within Apple, to the extent that his team regularly used Google's cloud services for its work.

Across Apple, different teams also continued working on AI features independently. That included Craig Federighi's team, which according to unnamed former Apple employees, invested in building up the AI behind its image and video capabilities.

But ultimately it was Federighi who has changed Apple's approach to AI. He is said to have spent Christmas 2022 playing with Microsoft Copilot, powered by ChatGPT, and that made him an AI convert.

Subsequently, his team of software engineers were given resources to pursue AI and specifically generative AI. Federighi is reported to have said in Apple meetings that he had now come to appreciate its benefits, and that it will be incorporated into all of Apple's software.

It's not clear whether this work is being done solely by Federighi's team without Giannandrea's. However, the two men were both involved in meeting with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, which appears to have led to a deal that will be announced at WWDC on June 10, 2024.