OpenAI and famed Apple designer Sir Jony Ive are in advanced talks with the owner and CEO of SoftBank Group Masayoshi Son to form a joint venture to build the “iPhone of AI.”
Previous reports revealed that Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, sought out LoveForm, Ive’s design firm that he created when he left Apple in 2019, to help build AI hardware of some kind. The 2 high-powered executives have reportedly been working together to develop OpenAI’s very first consumer device.
It’s no surprise that Altman came to Ive for this project. If anyone were to help build the “iPhone of AI” it would be Ive. He worked closely with Steve Jobs to develop a majority of Apple’s most successful products including the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and even parts of the iOS user interface.
The project is intended to create the very first mass-market AI consumer product with an intuitive user experience, just like the iPhone was the first mass-market smartphone.
Masayoshi Son is also another obvious choice to help build this device. His firm, SoftBank, owns 90% of one of the leading mobile chip designers in the world: Arm. SoftBank also runs a massive tech venture capital fund, dubbed the SoftBank Vision Fund, that reportedly will provide over $1 billion in funding for the project.
Insiders familiar with the plan say that no deal has been reached as of yet and there may not be an official announcement of the venture for months.
This project seems to have been timed well as the iPhone continues to slow its massive dominance. The most recent phone it released less than a week ago, the iPhone 15, is already facing criticism for multiple hardware issues including poor durability. The iPhone 15 Pro, the premium model, is also having problems with overheating, reportedly reaching temperatures of over 112 degrees Fahrenheit when charging while in use.
Smartphone sales in North America have slumped dramatically since 2021 and fell 12% in 2023. OpenAI, Ive, and Softbank are likely hoping to make their device the next breakthrough mass-market consumer device by giving it similar or greater utility to a phone but entirely new.
What Might This Device Look Like?
Only OpenAI, Ive, and Masayoshi Son likely know the details of the project and how they plan on setting this device apart from all other consumer tech but we at least have a few hints. Of course, the device will be heavily integrated with AI in one way or another.
This could come in the form of a smartphone with a simple AI personal assistant like an improved Siri or just a better version of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Many onlookers are suggesting that a VR or AR device similar to Google Glass or Apple’s Provision is more likely to be the focus of the project.
Whatever form the device may take, it will likely be built with special hardware to improve performance at AI tasks. The project will also require great software to make the necessary easy-to-use interface that all mass-market gadgets need.
Ive’s inclusion in the project may also be a hint at the nature of the final product. He has pushed for Apple to grapple with the addictive nature of their iPhones for years, saying that it’s a moral responsibility to fight the problems that they created.
He may be pushing for a device that moves the focus away from screens, potentially relying more on speaking back and forth with the device or some other mechanism. This isn’t as crazy as it may sound as Altman has actually invested in a startup called Humane that is building a wearable screenless gadget.
This venture may or may not even end with a final device at all but the prospect of a revolutionary AI-powered screenless device is exciting nonetheless.