Are Sam Altman and ex-Apple designer Jony Ive designing an AI device?

September 28, 2023

Altman Apple

Ex-Apple design head Jony Ive and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman are reportedly discussing a new, unspecified AI device. 

The exact nature of the device remains a mystery, sparking speculations ranging from a reimagined smartphone leaning heavily on generative AI to something right out of the leftfield.

A recent Financial Times article suggests the endeavor is bolstered by a $1 billion investment from SoftBank’s chief, Masayoshi Son. Reporters allege that Altman and Ive have already initiated dialogue, with ideation sessions hosted at Ive’s San Francisco workspace.

The news has ignited a plethora of speculative ideas, but there’s nothing concrete yet.

Jessica Lessin and Stephanie Palazzolo from The Information speculated, “Given Ive’s involvement, it’s most likely to be some sort of consumer device, like a reimagined phone.” 

They further hypothesize that OpenAI might be in the process of crafting an AI-native operating system with the ability to produce apps dynamically based on user needs.

A possibility in the era of GPT-5? But not right now. 

Commenting on the likelihood of it being a smartphone, Steven Sinofsky, the former Microsoft Windows Division President, expressed skepticism on X, stating, “No idea, but for sure a phone, especially an Android derivative, makes zero sense.” 

He further added, “Anyone can build a phone. Watching Google and Microsoft should be good evidence that few can distribute one.”

Interestingly, this wouldn’t be Altman’s first encounter with Apple designers. Thomas Meyerhoffer, a former recruit by Ive at Apple, had previously designed the retina-scanning Orb for Altman’s crypto venture, Worldcoin.

Adding intrigue to the story is the involvement of Masayoshi Son, CEO of the Japanese investment behemoth SoftBank.

Reports indicate he’s also been engaging with Ive and Altman. His exact role remains a puzzle.

As OpenAI whips up a storm of hype around its new feature releases, many are fantasizing about an AI phone.

As Thomas Ricouard, a staff iOS engineer at Medium, mentioned on the social media site Mastodon, “IMO, if OpenAI were to release a phone with ChatGPT at its core, I would probably immediately switch.”

Who is Jony Ive?

Sir Jonathan “Jony” Ive is a British industrial designer known primarily for his work at Apple, where he served as the Chief Design Officer (CDO). 

Ive profoundly influenced the design aesthetics of many of Apple’s iconic products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.

His approach to design, which emphasizes simplicity, minimalism, and functionality, played a crucial role in Apple’s resurgence in the late 1990s and its ascent to becoming one of the world’s most valuable and influential tech companies.

In 2019, Ive left Apple to start his own design consulting firm, LoveFrom, but he remains closely associated with Apple’s design philosophy.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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