Apple in talks to use Google Gemini AI on iPhones despite antitrust concerns

SCIENCE & TECH: Apple in talks to use Google Gemini AI on iPhones despite antitrust concerns

Apple is reportedly in talks to add Google’s Gemini AI product to its iPhones – even as both tech giants face massive scrutiny from antitrust regulators and Google’s AI chatbot gets a revamp following major blowback for generating ahistorical “woke” images.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company wants to license Google Gemini for some of the new AI features set for release on its iOS operating system later this year, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the negotiations.  

Apple has also held talks with ChatGPT creator OpenAI about a potential AI partnership, the report said. OpenAI’s chief investor, Microsoft, is locked in a race with Google to develop advanced AI tools.

Shares of Google parent Alphabet surged nearly 7% in morning trading after the reports surfaced. Apple rose nearly 3%. Microsoft shares were flat.

Google disabled Gemini’s image generation tool earlier this year. SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Apple, Google and OpenAI representatives did not immediately return requests for comment.

The companies haven’t settled on the financial terms of a potential deal or how the partnership would be branded or implemented. Google’s AI tool would potentially gain access to a network of more than two billion Apple devices, giving the company an instant lead in the AI race.

A deal between Apple and Google also would essentially function as an extension of their widely-criticized partnership for online search, which faced intense scrutiny during the Justice Department’s landmark antitrust case.

“This is brazen behavior to say the least,” one well-connected tech policy insider told The Post. “Google is awaiting a verdict as we speak on similar issues relating to search defaults, and Apple itself is reportedly facing an imminent antitrust complaint from DOJ.”

Google reportedly paid Apple about $18 billion in 2021 alone to make its search engine enabled by default on the Safari browser used by iPhones. A judge is set to rule on whether Google has maintained an illegal monopoly later this year.

Apple is set to make major announcements about its AI plans at an event in June. AP

If a partnership is struck, Apple would use Google Gemini for tasks such as creating images and providing written responses to user prompts, the report said.

That’s despite the fact that Google has disabled Gemini’s image generation tool in recent weeks after it began churning out bizarre pictures such as female NHL players, Black Vikings and Founding Fathers and an Asian woman dressed as a Nazi-era German soldier.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin admitted the tech giant “definitely messed up on the image generation.” The images sparked allegations that Google had injected the chatbot with political bias – claims that were compounded after critics uncovered “woke” tweets from Gemini’s product lead.  

Elsewhere, Apple has embarked on a major charm offensive with President Biden’s White House — including a series of visits from CEO Tim Cook — as the company contends with various allegations of anticompetitive behavior.

The DOJ is said to be days away from filing a major antitrust lawsuit against Apple.

Google Gemini’s “woke” rendering of George Washington. Google Gemini
Google’s AI would potentially be installed on more than two billion Apple devices. REUTERS

“With a potential antitrust case on the horizon, the timing of this announcement isn’t an accident. To be clear: Apple is openly colluding with Google in an effort to block out competition and protect monopoly power for itself and closest ‘rival,’” said Sacha Haworth, executive director of the Tech Oversight Project.

“Google and Apple have already come under fire for operating ‘as one company.’ We cannot allow them to use the same playbook to consolidate the AI space,” Haworth added. “This partnership raises red flags that the Department of Justice and White House need to investigate.”

As The Post reported last month, a group of antitrust watchdogs recently warned US officials that Google was still moving “full steam ahead” with anticompetitive practices to maintain a dominant grip on the market – even after DOJ’s trial began.

Google’s critics, such as outgoing Republican congressman Ken Buck, have warned that the company will use its AI tools to further entrench a monopoly over online search unless regulators intervene.

Google has pushed back on the criticism, arguing at trial that customers use its search engine because it is the best available product and that its significant payouts to Apple and mobile service providers like AT&T for default status are simply fair compensation.

In Europe, antitrust watchdogs are mandating that Google make it easier for users to change their default search engine.

Apple also reportedly approached ChatGPT creator OpenAI about a potential deal. Christopher Sadowski

If it does proceed, the partnership would mark a “major win for Google to get onto the Apple ecosystem and have access to the golden installed base of Cupertino,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a note to clients.

“For Apple this will give them the foundation and technology blueprint to double down on AI features currently being developed within Apple Park to make sure that iPhone 16 will be a potential game changer iPhone release around AI functionality,” Ives added.

Apple is expected to provide more details about its AI strategy at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The report said Apple was unlikely to announce any deal on its AI plans before that event.

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