Big Mad Over OpenAI and Apple

Elon Musk rides the ballistic boat down Apple's river
Elon Musk threatens to ban Apple devices from his companies over Apple’s ChatGPT integrations | TechCrunch
Elon Musk’s posts seem to misunderstand the relationship Apple announced with OpenAI at WWDC 2024.

If you can't beat em, FUD em:

Elon Musk is threatening to ban iPhones from all his companies over the newly announced OpenAI integrations Apple announced at WWDC 2024 on Monday. In a series of posts on X, the Tesla, SpaceX and xAI exec wrote that “if Apple integrates OpenAI at the OS level,” Apple devices would be banned from his businesses and visitors would have to check their Apple devices at the door where they’ll be “stored in a Faraday cage.”

Let's just be clear what this is: Musk is upset that Apple chose to partner with OpenAI, the company he co-founded and is now suing. Perez suggests he seems to misunderstand the actual relationship between the two and how the product experience will work, but I actually think he understands it just fine. He's pissed because this is going to lead to a massive influx of new OpenAI users.1

This was entirely predictable, because, well, I predicted it. Back in April, talking about then then-rumored OpenAI deal, in a footnote:

You know who else Apple doesn't like too much? Elon Musk. The estranged OpenAI co-founder currently suing the startup...

And again last week:

It would be a way to stick it to Elon Musk in a way, so perhaps there's still hope...

Pissing off Musk is not the reason to do this deal, of course. But it's also a nice little cherry on top for Apple, which has been battling Musk for years on a few fronts, but mainly around the poaching of Tesla employees for their car project and also perhaps some on-again/off-again M&A conversations. It's not quite "Go fuck yourself" bad, as it is with Disney. But it looks to be getting there!2

In iOS 18, Apple said people will be able to ask Siri questions, and if the assistant thinks ChatGPT can help, it will ask permission to share the question and present the answer directly. This allows users to get an answer from ChatGPT without having to open the ChatGPT iOS app. Photos, PDFs or other documents you want to send to ChatGPT get the same treatment.

Musk, however, would prefer that OpenAI’s capabilities remain bound to a dedicated app — not a Siri integration.

Responding to VC and CTO Sam Pullara at Sutter Hill Ventures who wrote that the user is approving a specific request on a per-request basis — OpenAI does not have access to the device — Musk wrote, “Then leave it as an app. This is bullshit.”

It would not, presumably, be "bullshit" if there was the option to share such information with xAI, the AI company which Musk controls. But in that case, the point would undoubtedly be made that you can trust xAI. Just look to its sister company, the bastion of stability. You simply can't trust OpenAI, you see.

“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!” Musk exclaimed in one of many posts about the new integrations. “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 said. While it’s true that Apple may not know the inner workings of OpenAI, it’s not technically Apple handing over the data — the user is making that choice, from the sound of things.

It's a somewhat fair point that we don't yet know all the details of how Apple intends to handle user data here, but it also seems fairly straightforward. To Pullara's point, this does seem to be just like what you can do right now with the OpenAI app, it's just giving you a new UI, created by Apple and integrated into their various operating systems, to do this. It's sort of like when Apple added Twitter integration to iOS 5a story I broke 13 years ago.

Twitter? What's that?

Apple has also said they intend to add other AI partners down the road, OpenAI is just the first. I'm going to go ahead and guess that xAI will not be one of them.3

1 And beyond the integrated access to millions of users of Apple products (not billions -- yet -- because this will only be available on newer Apple devices), Musk must be annoyed about the data OpenAI will get access to as well in order to continue training their models. xAI has been touting exclusive access to Xitter data, but the type of data you'd get from "normal" users in an Apple partnership feels pretty invaluable.

2 Could Musk retaliate by pulling Xitter off of the App Store? I mean, that would be crazy and likely a very bad self-own, but well, he's the owner! (I doubt it, but the chance is not 0%.)

3 Aside from pulling Xitter, would Musk actually ban Apple devices at his companies? That also feels very unlikely, but it's also not impossible! It would be interesting to see the employee reaction to such a move... Perhaps more likely is now an ongoing campaign to rally his fans on Xitter against Apple.