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After rumors began to swirl that Apple alum Jony Ive and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman were having collaborative talks on a mysterious piece of AI hardware, it appears that the pair are indeed trying to corner the smartphone market. The two are reportedly discussing a collaboration on a new kind of smartphone device with $1 billion in backing from Masayoshi Son’s Softbank.
Financial Times reported on the development, claiming that Ive and Altman had brainstorming sessions at the former’s San Francisco studio about what a consumer piece of hardware could look like. According to the outlet, the duo are looking to create a device that provides a more “natural and intuitive way” to interact with AI. The nascent idea is to take a ground-up approach to redesigning the smartphone in the same way that Ive did with touchscreens so many years ago. One source told the Financial Times that the plan is to make the “iPhone of artificial intelligence.” Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son is also involved in the venture, with the financial holding group putting up a massive $1 billion toward the effort. Son has also reportedly pitched Arm, a chip designer in which SoftBank has a 90% stake, for involvement.
OpenAI did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment.
While it’s still not clear what the end goal of the product talks will be (or if anything will come of them at all, really), it does seem like the general public has become fatigued with the same-y rollout of a slightly better smartphone slab year after year. Tech market analysis firm Canalys revealed in a report earlier this month that smartphone sales have experienced a significant decline in North America. The report indicates that iPhone sales have fallen 22% year-over-year, with an expected decline of 12% in 2023. The numbers are pretty staggering, especially fresh off the release of the iPhone 15, and could be an indicator that people are getting fatigued of the hottest new tech gadgets.
It doesn’t sound like Ive, Altman, and Son are necessarily reinventing the iPhone, as calling the device the “iPhone of artificial intelligence” could simply be a goal to reinvent the smartphone with AI much in the way the iPhone reinvented cell phones with a touchscreen. Their attempt could be enough to tip the scales of consumerism in their favor and get people excited about another piece of hardware. ChatGPT is one of the fastest-growing apps of all time, after all.
OpenAI tapping Jony Ive means the company is serious about developing an innovative new piece of tech as the British creator was the lead designer 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. While Ive certainly had a major hand in reshaping the technological landscape of the 21st century, he’s recently appeared to be ruminating on what kind of Pandora’s Box he’s truly opened. The designer told the Financial Times in a 2018 interview that Apple has a “moral responsibility” to mitigate the effects of how addictive iPhones have become, especially among children. If he does decide to come out of “retirement,” he may be looking for a chance to right his wrongs.