Jony Ive and Sam Altman seek $1B in funding

Mike Powers
Jony Ive and Sam Altman seek B in funding

Reports last fall claimed that Jony Ive and Sam Altman had been talking about creating the iPhone of artificial intelligence (AI). The rumors, which were scarce in detail, came before Altman’s brief ousting as CEO of OpenAI. They said Ive and Altman would not make a smartphone and that the new AI hardware endeavor would need an investment amounting to at least $1 billion. This was also at a time when Humane was preparing for the AI Pin launch.

Now, a new report claims that Jony Ive and Sam Altman have indeed formed a mysterious company to manufacture some sort of new AI hardware. They’re looking for investors, and the list of contacts being made includes Steve Jobs’s wife, Laurene Powell Jobs.

Last fall, I said that ChatGPT needs its own home and that the Ive-Altman AI hardware project could be it. But it’s still unclear whether the iPhone of artificial intelligence they’re working on will run on ChatGPT.

On the other hand, Apple is rumored to work with Google on integrating Gemini into the iPhone’s iOS 18 update. That is, Apple’s own GPT isn’t competitive enough to take on ChatGPT and Gemini yet. Or Apple’s cloud infrastructure needs significant efforts to support cloud AI features or a combination thereof.

What I’m getting at is that a venture like the Ive-Altman project would probably need a big partner for the AI features rather than going it alone. Of course, I am just speculating.

Rabbit r1 device announced at CES 2024. Image source: Rabbit

The funding details from The Information (via Ars Technica) indicate that Jony Ive and Sam Altman are going forward.

They might have formed a mysterious new company to launch an AI-powered personal device. This device would not look anything like a smartphone, though it’s unclear what it would look like.

The report says Jony Ive and Sam Altman want $1 billion for the new company. They’ve been discussing with several potential investors. The list includes Thrive Captial, which invested in OpenAI. Emerson Collective is also a potential partner, a venture capital firm founded by Laurene Powell Jobs.

Having Jobs as an investor would lead to a scenario where the Ive-Altman company will compete directly with Apple. That’s because the iPhone will start getting personal AI features come the iOS 18 update this year.

Whatever gadget Ive and Altman develop will inevitably compete with an even better AI iPhone. The AI hardware coming from this mysterious company will take several years to complete. During that time, Apple will further improve the AI abilities of its own products, including the iPhone.

I am speculating on the Ive-Altman company’s roadmap. Nothing official is available on the matter, so we do not know when they expect to release their first-gen AI product.

These are the early days of AI hardware products, of course. Devices like the Humane AI Pin and the Rabbit r1 seen in the images above are only starting to ship. It will be a while until others follow, but I’m certain we’ll see more AI hardware products come out in the next few years.

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