Musk wants to ban Apple at his companies for cosying up to OpenAI

Concerned about secrecy... or just mad no one's buying his AI tech?

Comment AI laggard Apple introduced the world to its fashionably late spin on the tech yesterday, and of course mewling billionaire manbaby Elon Musk had to stick an oar in – not that anybody asked.

Cupertino told its Worldwide Developer Conference that within its walled garden, AI is not "Artificial Intelligence" but "Apple Intelligence." Without retreading old ground – you can read all about the announcements here – it's basically Siri on steroids, putting "powerful generative models right at the core of your iPhone, iPad, and Mac," but with an emphasis on privacy.

However, what stuck in Musk's craw was Apple's intention to support other models like OpenAI's ChatGPT. Craig Federighi, SVP of software engineering, explained that customers would be able to access ChatGPT for free across their devices without creating an account, "and for ChatGPT subscribers, you'll be able to connect your account and access paid features right within our experiences."

It seems that OpenAI is a dirty word within the mogul's business empire. On his chaotic social network X, Musk's knee jerked so hard it must have smacked him in the kisser.

"If Apple integrates OpenAI at the OS level, then Apple devices will be banned at my companies. That is an unacceptable security violation," he raged, adding: "And visitors will have to check their Apple devices at the door, where they will be stored in a Faraday cage."

He didn't stop there. "It's patently absurd that Apple isn't smart enough to make their own AI, yet is somehow capable of ensuring that OpenAI will protect your security & privacy!" he continued.

"Apple has no clue what's actually going on once they hand your data over to OpenAI. They're selling you down the river." He got "community noted" on the claim that Apple can't develop its own AI models.

In fact, the rest of his evening was devoted to shitposting about OpenAI, so something's struck a nerve.

On the face of it, the concern seems to be about the potential for intellectual property from Tesla, SpaceX, or X and so on to be siphoned off to OpenAI. He was equally damning, we should note, about Microsoft's widely panned Recall feature, which he described as "a Black Mirror episode" that he would "definitely" be turning off (confirming Musk's a Windows user).

To be fair, OpenAI is no angel when it comes to allegations about using others' intellectual property to fill its pockets. Just last month, the company pulled one of its voices after actress Scarlett Johansson complained it sounded uncannily like her own even though she rejected OpenAI's overtures about licensing it out.

The company is also the subject of multiple lawsuits from publishers, authors, and more claiming that it appropriated their material without permission to train its large language models.

But there are many other possible reasons for why Apple getting cosy with OpenAI has induced such a spittle-flecked rant. We must remember that there is no love lost between Musk and the company he helped start.

In March, he sued OpenAI alleging a breach of contract in its move away from open technology and its original mission to develop AI for the benefit of humanity. In response, OpenAI went public with emails that appear to show Musk was not only aware of the need to become a for-profit entity, but also wanted to merge OpenAI into Tesla and become CEO. Which would ordinarily be a bit embarrassing.

Nor should we forget that Musk is also a runner in the AI arms race with xAI and its Grok chatbot. Grok was a direct response to Musk's accusations that mainstream AI is "woke" and thus an attempt to be more casual, vulgar, and "politically neutral" – although it has also wanted to vote for Biden.

It could be that Musk is upset that Apple will be going to the established AI outfits rather than xAI and get them running on iDevices. However, Grok is currently only available to Premium X subscribers, and we imagine the business case for an edgy chatbot that can crack jokes about sci-fi is flimsy compared to the staid, structured nature of ChatGPT and its ilk.

All that aside, we asked Annette Zimmermann, VP Analyst in the Emerging Technologies and Trends team at Gartner, whether Musk is right to worry about OpenAI on iOS et al, to which she said: "It is not justified because he is not paying attention to the details and facts" – which is par for the course really.

"There are general risks that any employer has to worry about when employees use ChatGPT but those risks are not specific to Apple's approach and can be a risk on any smartphone."

Apple's rival in the smartphone space is Google, another mandatory AI player also busy cramming the tech into its mobile OS, Android. By Musk's reasoning, all phones will have to go into that Faraday cage. And the Microsoft PCs, and the Macs. What's left? Linux? Musk would have to jump through all these hoops just to get Diablo IV running.

In any case, we think the keyboard bashing can more believably be chalked up to beef with OpenAI, and that's it. ®

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