OpenAI is in advanced talks with former Apple designer Jony Ive and Japanese tech giant SoftBank to bankroll a $1 billion project to build the “iPhone of artificial intelligence,” the Financial Times reported on Thursday, as the company moves to build upon the success of ChatGPT and Silicon Valley searches for tech’s next big hardware platform after the smartphone.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has tapped Ive’s company LoveFrom to develop OpenAI’s first consumer device, the FT reported, citing three people familiar with the matter.
Ive, who was first reported to be collaborating with Altman by The Information on Tuesday, founded LoveFrom in 2019 after two decades at Apple, where he played a key role in developing some of the company’s most influential hardware like the iPhone and iPod.
While the project is still in its early stages, the pair have discussed many potential designs during brainstorming sessions and are hoping to build something that gives a “more natural and intuitive user experience for interacting with AI,” the FT report said, adding that they are drawing inspiration from how the iPhone used touchscreen to transform how we interact with the mobile internet.
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is in talks with the duo to inject more than $1 billion into the venture and have discussed creating a company that would draw on the talent and technology from the three firms, the FT said.
Son is also pushing for chip designer Arm—which SoftBank owns around 90% of—to play a central role in the project, the FT reported.
The FT said the talks are “serious” but not final, warning no deal has been agreed yet and that any formal announcement could be months away, with a product likely taking years to reach market.
Smartphones transformed the way we interact with the internet and out of them an entire digital ecosystem evolved. Some two decades of evolution later, the innovations and market for smartphones is slowing and the tech world is searching for the next big and transformative thing. Virtual and augmented reality—the so-called metaverse—is hyped as a contender but nothing has yet managed to come close to the disruption of the smartphone. The development of advanced artificial intelligence is another potentially transformative development tech magnates are watching closely. While AI has been hyped and feared for decades, recent advances in generative AI—that can generate material like text or art—has accelerated interest and funding dramatically. This charge was arguably led by OpenAI, whose success with ChatGPT spurred other companies like Google and Microsoft to release their own AI systems and a host of other companies to integrate AI into their operations.
What To Watch For
SoftBank is reportedly hunting for deals in artificial intelligence, particularly after the successful listing of Arm earlier this month. According to the FT, Son is looking to invest tens of billions of dollars in the sector.
$90 billion. That’s how much OpenAI could be valued at, according to a share sale the company is considering, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. The potential sale would place the startup’s value at around triple from earlier this year.
OpenAI and Jony Ive in talks to raise $1bn from SoftBank for AI device venture (Financial Times)
OpenAI Seeks New Valuation of Up to $90 Billion in Sale of Existing Shares (WSJ)