Apple has marked its entry into the open source domain by unveiling Ferret, a multimodal Large Language Model (LLM), in collaboration with researchers from Columbia University in October 2023. In a significant pivot away from its characteristic closed-system ecosystem, Apple supports the research community with the release of Ferret, which comes equipped with accompanying code and weights. However, it is essential to note that Ferret's release carries a restriction to research-only usage and is not available for commercial purposes.
Tech Industry Reacts to Apple's Open Source Initiative
The initial launch of Ferret was met with limited attention, but interest among the technology and AI sectors has surged, particularly in light of recent discussions surrounding the potential of local LLMs in consumer electronics. Influential voices in the AI community, such as Bart de Witte and Tristan Behrens, have acknowledged the significance of Apple's move into open source, signifying a pivotal step for the company known for its guarded approach to software and intellectual property.
Adding to the conversation, tech expert Ben Dickson has recognized the strategic importance of such a move for Apple, suggesting that competing with AI systems like ChatGPT requires an alternative approach given Apple's current infrastructure capabilities. By open sourcing models, Apple positions itself alongside competitors like Meta in the LLM market, without becoming reliant on cloud services provided by companies such as Microsoft or Google.
Advanced Local AI on Apple Devices: A Breakthrough in Deployment
Parallel to the conversation about Ferret's impact in the AI landscape, Apple has shared two novel research papers outlining advancements in deploying LLMs on iPhones, as well as new techniques for creating 3D avatars. These technical improvements are lauded for their potential to bring complex AI-powered applications directly to consumer devices, including the iPhone and iPad. The new research could herald the incorporation of Local Large Language Models into iOS, elevating user interactions with a suite of more intuitive and responsive AI services.
As the implications of Apple's foray into open source AI unfold, notable companies like Anthropic and OpenAI are reported to be securing substantial investments for their ongoing proprietary LLM development projects. In October, I reported on how Apple is investing billions into AI in an effort to catch up with big tech rivals. Apple's recent endeavors indicate a strong commitment to harnessing the power of generative AI.
The company, which had been relatively silent in the AI domain, especially when OpenAI ChatGPT gained immense popularity, is now making significant strides. Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, has revealed that the company has been delving into generative AI technology for quite some time. This revelation comes amidst speculations that Apple was caught off-guard by the sudden surge in AI-driven technologies by competitors like Google and Microsoft.