Report: Apple To Use Baidu’s Ernie Bot In China iPhones

Apple chief executive Tim Cook at WWDC 2020. Image credit: Apple

Apple reportedly to use Baidu’s Ernie Bot AI in Chinese iPhones, Macs as company prepares AI reveal later this year

Apple has selected Baidu’s Ernie Bot as its local generative AI engine in China for the iPhone and other products, according to local media reports.

The news sent Baidu’s share price surging as high as 6 percent in Kong Kong trading on Monday morning before it closed up 2.55 percent.

The Ernie Bot generative AI technology has been selected for use in the latest iPhone 16, MacOS and upcoming iOS 18 in China after Apple discussed plans with other companies including Alibaba Group and an AI company affiliated with Tsinghua University, according to a Monday report by China Star Market, a media outlet operated by Shanghai United Media Group, and other news publications.

Apple is to use other technology outside of China but is constrained to use a Chinese large language model (LLM) on the mainland due to regulatory considerations, reports said.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said last month the company would unveil AI plans later this year, and is reportedly in talks to use a combination of in-house AI technology as well as Google’s Gemini generative AI.

Baidu chief executive Robin Li. Image credit: Baidu
Baidu chief executive Robin Li. Image credit: Baidu

AI competition

China’s tech scene has produced hundreds of competing LLMs, with Baidu being one of the biggest and most successful so far.

After a lacklustre debut last year, Baidu’s AI efforts have exceeded analysts’ expectations, with monetisation arriving more quickly than expected, said Zephirin Group analyst Ann Romain in a research note.

Baidu chief executive Robin Li said the company’s cloud-based AI business was likely to become a main revenue driver this year with revenue rising sharply to “several billion yuan”.

Daiwa analyst John Choi said that a partnership with Apple would help boost its monetisation plans.

Visit to China

The news comes during a visit to China by Apple’s Cook during which he has opened a retail store in Shanghai and met with key Chinese suppliers, reaffirming the country as a key supplier and customer base.

At a Sunday conference attended by Premier Li Qiang Cook said the company would launch its Vision Pro headset on the mainland later this year, according to a report by state-backed CCTV television.