Apple Promises AI Features In New IPad Pro Chips—As AI Tech Race Heats Up

Published 19 days ago
By Forbes | James Farrell
American multinational technology company Apple store seen
(Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

TOPLINE

Apple’s new line of iPad Pros will include a processor the company claims is an “outrageously powerful chip for AI,” as the tech giant laid the groundwork for long-anticipated generative AI features across its products amid investor concern that it’s falling behind in the race to harness the new technology.

KEY FACTS

The new M4 chip represents an upgrade over the M2 chips that powered the last generation of iPads and the M3 chips that power Apple’s current generation of MacBook laptops, the company said in an announcement Tuesday.

Tuesday’s announcement didn’t offer specifics about potential AI features that could be built into Apple tech, though Tim Millet, Apple’s vice president of platform architecture, gave one example, claiming that users would be able isolate the subject of a 4K video and remove the background with just a tap in Apple’s Final Cut Pro app.

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Millet said the neural engine powering the AI capabilities in the M4 chip has been included in Apple chips for years, but this latest neural engine is 60 times more powerful than Apple’s earliest models and “more powerful than any neural processing unit in any AI PC today.”

On Tuesday, Apple announced a new line of iPad Pros that the tech giant called its thinnest yet, coming in 11-inch and 13-inch models with OLED screen technology starting at $999 for the 11-inch model.

It also announced its new iPad Air, running on the M2 chip,which comes in a new, larger 13-inch option for $799—both the iPad Air and the iPad pro are available to order online Tuesday and in stores May 15.

Apple stock was slightly up—less than a percentage point—following Tuesday’s announcement.

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WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Apple could unveil more of its plans for AI at its upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference on June 10. CEO Tim Cook said Tuesday the company intends to “talk about the future of our platforms and share some exciting details about what’s to come” at the event. Cook has previously said the company is “investing significantly” in AI and would have more announcements on the subject “later this year.”

CONTRA

Apple’s plans for artificial intelligence could face immediate competition. The Verge reports Microsoft is set to host an event in Seattle this month where it plans to unveil its vision for the future of “AI PCs” and could launch new hardware featuring its Arm AI chips.

KEY BACKGROUND

Sales of Apple’s flagship iPhone have been slumping, down 10% year-over-year in the first three months of 2024, driving a 4% decrease in revenue last quarter. And while Apple is considered the most profitable American public company, its stock has been trending downward of late due to lower iPhone demand in China and concern over Apple’s lack of major plays in the field of artificial intelligence.

BIG NUMBER

38 trillion. That’s how many operations the new M4 chip’s neural engine can perform per second, Apple claimed on Tuesday.

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