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OpenAI’s Sam Altman is working with Jony Ive, but they aren’t making a smartphone

Published Oct 18th, 2023 5:36PM EDT
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman
Image: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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If they aren’t making a smartphone, what the heck are they making?!

At the end of September, a report came out that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Apple’s previous Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive, were potentially collaborating together on an AI hardware project. At the time, the rumor was that Ive and Altman were discussing the creation of a piece of hardware powered by artificial intelligence. Of course, the first thing that people pointed to was a new smartphone — an AI phone to replace the iPhone that Ive was previously involved with creating.

Well, Altman has put those rumors to bed. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern, Altman talked about what kind of hardware may be possible in this new era of AI where computers can think for themselves. Stern brought up the rumor about Altman working with Ive on a project, and Altman did not deny that the two have discussed a potential product to collaborate together on.

jony ive apple ferrari
Apple’s former design chief Jony Ive. Image source: Apple/YouTube

However, when Joanna asked if the hardware could be a smartphone, Altman shot down that idea. The CEO said, “I think there is something great to do but I don’t know what it is yet” and that he has “no interest in trying to compete with the smartphone.” He also shot down the idea that it could come in the form of a humanoid robot. Altman said that he has a lot of potential ideas of what could be done, but that all of those ideas are in the very early stages of discussion.

Stern also asked Altman if OpenAI would make its own chips — another thing that the CEO denied. While he doesn’t want to rule anything out, Altman said that the company’s current partners like NVIDIA have enough capability and capacity to meet demand and that the “default path” doesn’t include OpenAI designing its own processors.

You can watch the clip on Threads below:

Post by @joannastern
View on Threads

Of course, if OpenAI is working with Jony Ive, it does indicate that Altman and the team are interested in releasing some kind of hardware. You don’t work with Jony Ive unless you plan to create something in the physical world. Granted, Jony Ive did take over the design of software as well at Apple for a long time — he was the architect behind the either beloved or hated iOS 7 redesign — so anything is possible.

If OpenAI and Ive aren’t creating a smartphone, I wonder what it could be. Could it be more related to the AI Pin that is coming from Humane, a company also started by former Apple executives? That device made its debut at TED and recently showed up at Paris Fashion Week. It is supposed to launch in November, so it seems like the race to “AI first” hardware is already kicking off.

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.