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Apple’s Tim Cook loath to hype up A.I. like Elon Musk, Microsoft or Google

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Apple’s Tim Cook loath to hype up A.I. like Elon Musk, Microsoft or Google

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Tim Cook may not enjoy the same stature of an Elon Musk, but he has quietly run the world’s most valuable company since 2011—without the need for flashy promises of cyborgs or permanent settlements on Mars.

And he’s not about to be lured into copying the Tesla CEO by promising a “ChatGPT moment” for Apple investors, either. 

During the quarterly earnings call on Thursday, Cook preferred to talk about his first all-new hardware in years, the $3,500 Vision Pro headset, or his progress in India, where the first retail stores were opened, rather than generative artificial intelligence or even A.I. in general.

Notably the subject—which added hundreds of billions to Nvidia stock and made it a trillion dollar stock practically overnight—did not come up at all until almost the very end, when Deutsche Bank analyst Sidney Ho finally raised the issue.

“Your strategy on A.I. seems quite different than many of your peers, at least you don’t talk too much about that,” he noted, asking if Cook could elaborate on his investment in the groundbreaking technology and its likely impact on the company’s revenue going forward. 

Cook answered by effectively saying that just because he doesn’t talk about it doesn’t mean his engineers are not harnessing its power. Some of the features of iOS 17 coming in autumn such as personal voice—or even the Apple Watch’s currently available fall detection—would not have been possible without its use, he argued.

“We view A.I. and machine learning as core fundamental technologies that are integral to virtually every product that we build,” replied the Apple CEO, whose company is already worth the equivalent of three Nvidias put together.

In total, MarketWatch tallied up just six references to A.I. during Apple’s call, all of which occurred during that one exchange. This compares to 73 for Microsoft and 90 for Alphabet, the two tech companies with competing large language models in ChatGPT and Google Bard, respectively.

Not every CEO can afford to be as low key as Cook

Tesla’s Musk meanwhile has repeatedly claimed his company has unjustly been left out of the investor conversation when it comes to generative A.I.

Comparing his company’s A.I. work to Microsoft’s and Google’s LLMs during last month’s investor call, Musk claimed Tesla is pursuing a far more ambitious goal with what he has often called his “semi-sentient robots on wheels.”

The entrepreneur predicted his company would soon see its own “ChatGPT moment” when millions of his intelligent cars overnight come to life and drive themselves entirely on their own with no need for human supervision. 

Musk believes this over-the-air software patch, when it comes, will result in the single biggest asset value increase in history. This would then help boost the market cap of Tesla, currently worth only $821 billion, to twice that of Apple, by his own estimate.

By comparison, Cook viewed A.I. more through the prism of how it can “responsibly advance our products with the goal of enriching people’s lives” and less as a word to be thrown around liberally at a time of investor hype.

Finishing his remarks on the subject before turning his attention again to other matters on the call, the Apple CEO said he had no plans to depart from that low-key approach. 

“We tend to announce things as they come to market, that’s our M.O. and I’d like to stick to that,” Cook said.

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