Apple gets smart about tech support and genAI


Self-healing machines are becoming a reality, one generative AI (genAI) fault diagnosis tool at a time; one day, even your iPhone will tell you when it thinks it has a problem.

That’s the logical next step to this Apple AI story from MacRumors, which explains that  the company is, quite logically, building a ChatGPT-like tool allegedly called “Ask.”

Ask is a focused assistant trained using Apple’s own tech support data. It might use technology similar to the LLMs used by ChatGPT tools, but is built for a narrower and more defined set of tasks: tech support.

In theory, it will diagnose problems and identify solutions from within Apple’s database, be more contextually aware than simple search, and possess more self-directed intelligence than a chatbot.

Apple Ask and smart machines

Ask is reportedly being tested internally by some tech support staffers who must provide feedback on the answers given, presumably to help train the machine and make its answers more accurate over time.

AI analysts have been anticipating devices capable of pre-emptive maintenance for a long time. GenAI might eventually turn out to be the missing link for that kind of self-healing, as it is contextually intelligent. After all, if genAI can enable predictive maintenance on the factory floor, it can do the same in your phone.

As the tech evolves, it’s completely logical to anticipate that iPhones will monitor their own condition over time and alert you when they think they’re having a problem.


At this point, when using Apple Ask, advisors can make up to five additional follow-up queries on the same topic. That makes it a useful tool with which to solve complex or unfamiliar problems.

The world’s biggest mass-market AI?

This is just one of a raft of genAI services Apple is reportedly building for introduction this year. It is expected to boost its products with this kind of deep contextual intelligence later this year, with genAI features appearing in Siri, Spotlight, Messages, Health, Xcode, the company’s iWork apps, and more.

That’s all good as far as it goes, but it looks increasingly likely that by the end of 2024, Apple will be offering up the world’s most widely available genAI ecosystem.

Think of it like this: Around two billion Apple devices are in active use today, the vast majority of which should run the next operating systems when they ship.

Now, we don’t know if development is on schedule and what the processor requirements for these tools will be. But if these solutions can run on chips even as far back as the M1 Macs and iPhone 13, that still translates into hundreds of millions of genAI-augmented devices in use worldwide.

(That’s assuming the tools are made available globally — it is reasonable to think some languages might not be ready from the start.)

Disruptive technology you already own

We already know how powerfully disruptive AI at this scale is likely to be.

In the UK, the Ministry of Justice is supporting an event in which leaders from that nation’s legal profession will consider how these technologies might reshape legal services and social justice in future.

In the mobile industry, these tools are expected to transform all aspects of mobile network service provision and delivery, with the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) today releasing a report that described these technologies as a “generational game changer.”

It’s also reasonable to think Apple might also build a core engine through which third-party developers can deliver their own highly focused AI solutions to customers — the latter, presumably, in some form of App Store model, similar to OpenAI’s GPT Store. While no one seems to be speculating about such a thing at the moment, it feels like a logical direction.

With a relatively unified set of product and operating system platforms and power to spare in the processors driving most currently in use Apple devices, once Apple CEO Tim Cook does shout “Go” on the AI Apple has been building, the transformative and disruptive genAI era will truly have begun. It’s almost certain that one of the reasons Apple has chosen to be deliberative in how it introduces this tech to the mass market is because it understands the profound disruption it will generate.

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