May 24, 2024

Apple is expected to unveil new iPads and possibly a new chip

Apple is expected to hold a virtual event on Tuesday to unveil new iPad models, some of which could come with a new chip designed to speed up artificial intelligence tasks performed on the devices.

The latest product launch event comes as the Silicon Valley heavyweight pursues big tech rivals to build artificial intelligence into its products and dominate the emerging technology.

Apple often unveils new iPads in May, which is when education customers make purchasing decisions for the upcoming school year. But in recent years, with the iPad Pro models, Apple has begun turning its pricier models into devices for creatives and business professionals.

These tablets, which currently feature chips developed by Apple and previously used in the company’s MacBook laptops, could get an upgrade with a new processor optimized for AI work. But exactly what AI features the new chips might support may not become clear until Apple’s annual software developers conference next month.

For now, there are many AI functions — such as: Some analysts say options like zooming in on the user during a video call and changing the appearance of the eyes slightly to make it look as if the user is looking directly into the camera — are unlikely to trigger a wave of upgrades.

“Is that really enough to get people to buy it? Probably not,” said Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner. “It should be a great experience.”

Google rival Microsoft and Alphabet have delved into artificial intelligence, introducing chatbots designed to act as virtual assistants for tasks like composing emails or writing computer codes.

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While the shares of these companies rose to record levels, Apple shares fell by 6% since the beginning of the year until now, as the company suffers from weak demand for the iPhone and intense competition in China, and investors are waiting for the company to explain how it will use artificial intelligence technology.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said last week that the company is “very optimistic about our capabilities in generative AI” and plans to make more announcements throughout the year.

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies, said the upgraded iPads could be a way for Apple to launch new chips ahead of next month’s developers conference, where the company may reveal more about how it plans to use artificial intelligence.

This could take the form of automating common tasks to make them faster or allowing Siri, the company’s voice assistant, to delve deeper into apps to perform tasks on the user’s behalf.

The key question for Apple is how much the company can improve its AI capabilities while processing most of the information on the device itself for privacy reasons.

“I always say that AI is only as smart as the data it gets,” Milanesi said. (Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Lincoln Feast)