Apple prepares for biggest developer conference in years

Artificial intelligence to take centre stage at Worldwide Developers Conference 2024

Apple is preparing for what industry watchers expect will be the biggest developer conference it has held for a number of years, with Worldwide Developers Conference 2024 (WWDC) beginning on Monday.

The reason? Artificial intelligence, or generative AI specifically. The new technology has captured the public imagination, and spurred competition between the major tech companies to see who will come out on top.

The keynote, which will be delivered at 10am in Cupertino (6pm Irish time) will give an insight into how the tech giant is going to deal with the twin threat of increasingly sophisticated AI tools and users’ privacy.

Apple has been dealing with accusations of falling behind in the AI arms race, as Google and Microsoft go head to head for users in recent months.

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At the launch of its new iPads last month, the company was keen to point out that it has been using AI for some time – just not the generative AI technology that has been in the headlines since OpenAI released ChatGPT at the tail end of 2022.

But if the rumours become reality, Apple is planning a new focus that will bring more generative AI into its operating system.

Among the new features that are expected to debut at WWDC are an AI-powered Siri that will be generally smarter, and able to interact with apps more easily; transcription in the Voice Memos pap, a feature that Google’s Pixel phones have had for some time; and better editing tools in the native Photos app.

“This feels like a momentous WWDC. At a time when AI is transcending the tech industry, Apple is arguably on the back foot for the first time in a while,” said CCS Insight‘s Ben Wood in a blog post ahead of the event. “However, the company is no laggard and we expect it to come out fighting as it seeks to demonstrate how it can use AI to deliver meaningful improvements to its apps and services.”

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But what will this newfound push for AI mean for older Apple devices? The company has previously made a point of supporting older iPhones and iPads for several years after they have stopped selling the models; it was one of Apple’s advantages over Android back in the day when you were lucky to get three years of support from some of its bigger rivals.

However, given the leap in technology, it is unlikely that all of Apple’s phones capable of running iOS 18 will be able to use all the AI upgrades.

This isn’t a new scenario though. In the past, Apple has supported the wider iOS software on older phones, but not all features were supported, with Spatial Audio, portrait mode and live text in images among the features that have been included in iOS updates that were not compatible with older chips.

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