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OpenAI is looking to continue to bolster its reputation as a modern-day tech juggernaut by pivoting from its incredibly popular software to hardware. The company’s CEO Sam Altman is reportedly in talks with Apple alumnus and product designer Jony Ive on the top-secret project.
On Wednesday, The Information first reported on the Altman/Ive team-up, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter. The outlet reports that billionaire Masayoshi Son, who is also the founder and CEO of investment holding company SoftBank, has been discussing the project as well, but it’s unclear what his level of involvement is or will be. Sources revealed that the pair have been discussing what such a piece of hardware could even do or look like, with seemingly no concrete plan in place yet.
OpenAI did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment on the project.
One of the most ambitious possibilities is the idea of an OpenAI smartphone. Ive obviously has the resume to make such a moonshot happen and all the biggest phone manufacturers are scrambling to integrate AI with their devices natively. But as The Information points out, a move into hardware “could also be a big distraction” for OpenAI. Even tech giants like Amazon and Meta have struggled to use their massive resources and significant war chests to build profitable hardware businesses.
The anticipated hardware project could be yet another feather in the cap of OpenAI, a company that is best known (for better or for worse) for the popular AI chatbot ChatGPT. Tech giant and hardware peddler Microsoft poured billions into a deal with OpenAI earlier this year as one of the first major investors in the company after it went mainstream. The company is also in the middle of a huge valuation boost, according to the Wall Street Journal: OpenAI is in talks to sell shares that could boost its valuation from $29 billion to a whopping $80 billion to even $90 billion.
Jony Ive is a big name in product design—the British creator is the co-creator of Apple’s most famous gadgets like the iPhone, iPad, and iMac. Ive served as Apple’s Chief Design Officer before eventually leaving the tech giant in 2019 to pursue other ventures after 27 years at the company. More recently, Ive helped design a $60,000 turntable by audio equipment company Linn. Only 250 of the gadgets are being produced and sold, with shipping dates estimated between August 2023 and March 2024. Ive and his studio LoveFrom also designed a logo for King Charles III’s Astra Carta framework, which is a movement to emphasize sustainable practices for space companies.