Apple & OpenAI: Elon Musk Threatens Apple Device Ban

The Tesla, SpaceX and xAI billionaire warns that he will ban Apple devices within his companies if Apple integrates OpenAI within its operating system

The AI race is hotting up as Elon Musk fires back at Apple’s announcement that it will be partnering with OpenAI alongside its new “Apple Intelligence” suite.

The Tesla CEO and billionaire stated on X (formerly Twitter) that, if the tech giant integrates OpenAI at the operating system level, he will be banning Apple devices at all his companies.

“That is an unacceptable security violation,” Musk commented on X, which he also owns. “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!”

Elon Musk spearheads leading electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla, alongside astronautics company SpaceX, which has sent astronauts to the International Space Station. His new AI company, xAI has gained US$6bn in its Series B funding round as it aims to bring its first products to market.

AI privacy to remain a business priority

Comments from Elon Musk came very shortly after Apple placed its bid in the global AI race, after being seemingly quiet about what features it was working on.

The tech giant has now unveiled a range of new AI features, which it is referring to as “Apple Intelligence”, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in California. Another announcement from the company also confirmed that Apple will be updating its virtual assistant Siri to allow it to hand some queries to OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot.

“The update to Siri is long overdue and will be welcome after years during which speaking to Siri felt more like talking to a toddler compared to other voice assistants," comments Ben Wood, Chief Analyst and CMO at CCS Insight. "The first step will be improvements in Siri’s ability to understand what you are asking and the partnership with OpenAI means that Apple can immediately benefit from adding ChatGPT."

Such a partnership will enable Apple users to utilise ChatGPT technology across their devices.

What Elon Musk takes issue with is that such an integration could, in his opinion, lead to security violations - although both companies have strongly indicated that the partnership will offer strong privacy protections that would prevent personal customer data from being compromised. 

Apple has said that users can use the integration without signing into a ChatGPT account, meaning that OpenAI will not store any information or queries. Likewise, Apple also requires the user to agree to sharing information with ChatGPT before it sends a query, but states that it will not send queries by default.

At the conference, the tech giant highlighted that it will use a combination of on-device processing and cloud computing to power its new features. Claiming it is setting a new standard for privacy in AI, Apple is hiring independent experts to inspect its code to ensure greater levels of security.

“The partnership with ChatGPT is a major development which beefs up Apple’s AI offerings, and new features like a significantly improved Siri will be welcome to users," Ben adds. "This does open Apple up to some vulnerability as it has no control over OpenAI’s models but also provides a stellar headline AI partnership for the Apple ecosystem.

"However, this is just the first step in what is going to be a long journey to improve Siri to finally deliver against the promises Apple made when it first launched the service more than 10 years ago with the iPhone 4s."

From Open AI, to xAI: Elon Musk’s continued conflict of interest

It is no secret that Elon Musk has a complicated historic relationship with OpenAI. Having been instrumental in the launch of the startup alongside current CEO Sam Altman in 2015, he parted ways with the company due to a conflict of interest in 2018.

Musk has since sued OpenAI and Sam Altman in March 2024, citing the company has abandoned its original mission to develop AI for the benefit of humanity and not for profit. He has also founded xAI as a direct competitor to OpenAI and built an alternative to ChatGPT.

xAI was valued at US$24bn in its last funding round.

As far as Apple is concerned, the row reflects opposing views surrounding the dramatic growth of AI. As the technology continues to evolve, businesses are vying to implement the latest versions, leading to greater conversations about how responsible newer models are.

Apple has also made its announcements strategically, during a time where it has been falling behind in the global AI development race. In fact, the company was recently overtaken as the second-most valuable company by global chipmaker Nvidia, shortly after being overtaken by Microsoft as number one at the start of 2024.

In recent months, Apple has been criticised for being slower to adopt generative AI (Gen AI) and has halted major projects, which has been attributed to slowing demand.

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