Will Elon Musk Build His Own Smartphone After Threatening to Ban Apple Devices Over OpenAI Deal?

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc

Rumors are swirling and speculation is rife in the tech world following Elon Musk’s bold statements about banning Apple devices in response to the OpenAI deal. Could the visionary behind Tesla, Neuralink and SpaceX be gearing up to launch his own smartphone? With Musk’s history of shaking up industries, this potential move could send shockwaves through the tech landscape.

Apple’s OpenAI Partnership

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
Depositphotos Photo by ChinaImages

At its Worldwide Developer’s Conference on Monday, 10th June, 2024, Apple revealed plans to integrate its new AI software, Apple Intelligence, across iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices. In a separate announcement, Apple unveiled a partnership with OpenAI, which will include the option to integrate ChatGPT, powered by GPT-4o, into some of its software, including the newly enhanced Siri. Apple stated that the ChatGPT integration will be available for free.

Privacy Concerns Raised by Musk

Defocused glitch portrait of Elon Musk and his reflection.
Depositphotos Photo by KLYONA

Following the event, Elon Musk posted a series of critical messages on X, formerly known as Twitter, condemning the partnership.

He posted, “If Apple integrates OpenAI at the OS level, then Apple devices will be banned at my companies. That is an unacceptable security violation. And visitors will have to check their Apple devices at the door, where they will be stored in a Faraday cage.”

In a series of subsequent tweets he stated, ” It’s patently absurd that Apple isn’t smart enough to make their own AI, yet is somehow capable of ensuring that OpenAI will protect your security & privacy! Apple has no clue what’s actually going on once they hand your data over to OpenAI. They’re selling you down the river.”

He also responded to the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook’s tweet introducing Apple Intelligence reiterating concerns of spyware and warning all Apple devices will be banned from the premises of his companies.

Rocky Relationship With OpenAI

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI
Depositphotos Photo by MuhammadAlimaki

Musk’s disdain for OpenAI, an organization he co-founded and financed, is well-known. He has a public feud with its CEO, Sam Altman, and even sued OpenAI, accusing it of abandoning its original mission to be open-sourced and dedicated to “developing AGI for the benefit of humanity.

Elon Musk And Others Had Pushed For Moratorium On A.I., Citing Safety Risks

Depositphotos 721824550 L Sam Altman CEO of OpenAI Photo by MuhammadAlimaki
Depositphotos Photo by MuhammadAlimaki

More than 1,000 technology and A.I. luminaries, including Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple, and Andrew Yang, penned an open letter on March 22, 2023 urging a moratorium on the development of A.I. citing “profound risks to society and humanity.”

The open letter urged all AI laboratories to halt the training of AI systems more advanced than GPT-4 for a minimum of six months.

A few of the concerns raised included

– Contemporary AI systems are becoming competitive with humans at general tasks.
– Whether we should allow machines to flood our information channels with propaganda and falsehoods.
– Implications of automating all jobs, including those that are fulfilling.
– The development of nonhuman minds that might outnumber, outsmart, and replace humans poses a significant risk.
– Potential danger in losing control of our civilization to advanced AI systems.
– Critical decisions should not be left to unelected tech leaders.
– AI systems should only be developed when we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks manageable.

Musk Developing His Own AI Company

Elon Musk founded xAI. Elon Musk portrait, robot and xAI inscription.
Depositphotos Photo by KLYONA

Critics of the moratorium argue that since several countries are locked in an arms race to develop A.I., even if the suspension were implemented, it would only slow down the U.S. companies while the rest of the world could surpass us.

Additionally, some of the signers could have a vested interest in slowing down the progress of A.I.

Critics point to the fact that after parting ways with OpenAI, Musk launched his own AI company, xAI, and introduced a ChatGPT competitor called Grok.

xAI was valued at $24 billion during its latest funding round, securing $6 billion in Series B financing.

Elon’s Twitter Acquisition Had Ruffled Feathers In The Past

President Trump
Depositphotos Photo by gints.ivuskans

Twitter is the digital town square where influencers from heads of state to celebrities and media try to shape the public narrative.

The most controversial move by Musk since the acquisition of Twitter has been the reinstatement of former President Trump’s Twitter account on 20th Nov 2022, based on a Twitter poll. Musk tweeted, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Latin for “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”

Although Trump had not indicated any interest in returning to Twitter, Musk has faced tremendous flack.

Musk considered “Deplatforming a sitting President undermined public trust in Twitter for half of America.” Musk also reinstated other accounts, including professor Jordan Peterson, Babylon Bee, Project Veritas, Kathy Griffin, and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s account.

Threat Of Apple and Google Banning Twitter From App Stores

Vilnius, Lithuania - 2023 February 6: Elon Musk twitter account on mobile phone screen. Twitter logo in background
Depositphotos Photo by rokas91

In a Washington Post article on 24th Nov, 2022, Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic, said, “Apple and Google need to seriously start exploring booting Twitter off the app store. What Musk is doing is existentially dangerous for various marginalized communities. It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the havoc it will cause. People who engaged in direct targeted harassment can come back and engage in doxing, targeted harassment, vicious bullying, calls for violence, celebration of violence. I can’t even begin to state how dangerous this will be.”

Yoel Roth, former head of trust and safety at Twitter, in an op-ed for The New York Times on 18th Nov, 2022, said, “There is one more source of power on the web — one that most people don’t think much about but may be the most significant check on unrestrained speech on the mainstream internet: the app stores operated by Google and Apple. ”

Twitter has acknowledged the risks posed by the Apple and Google platforms. The Form 10-Q SEC filing in 2021 by Twitter states “Our release of new products, product features and services on mobile devices is dependent upon and can be impacted by digital storefront operators, such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store review teams, which decide what guidelines applications must operate under and how to enforce such guidelines. Such review processes can be difficult to predict, and certain decisions may harm our business.”

The possibility of Apple and Google banning Twitter from their App store had led to rumors of Musk  developing a smartphone.

Past Precedence On Banning Apps

President Trump
Depositphotos Photo by palinchak

App stores banning social media apps is not unprecedented. Heralded as a Twitter replacement, Parler was banned from the Apple App store in 2021, shortly after Google also banned it from the Play store. Rebecca Mercer, the daughter of Robert Mercer is the founding investor of Parler. Robert Mercer is an American hedge fund manager and is the former co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies and the famous Medallion Fund.

Collision Course Between Musk and App Stores Avoided In The Past

Apple App store, Google Play store download App buttons
Depositphotos Photo by D.Myts

Phil Schiller, responsible for Apple events and the App Store, deactivated his Twitter account around Nov, 2022. Schiller regularly used his Twitter account to promote new Apple products, services, software, and initiatives. He also frequently interacted with customers through the platform. His account has had a following of over 200,000 people since it was created in November 2008.

Musk has complained about the high app store fees as he plans to increase the amount of money Twitter makes through subscriptions. Apple currently charges between 15% and 30% of digital sales as app store fees.

In response to a Slashdot article regarding Google paying $360 million to Activision not to launch a rival app store, Musk tweeted, “App store fees are obviously too high due to the iOS/Android duopoly. It is a hidden 30% tax on the internet.” In a follow-up post, he tagged the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, which is reportedly investigating app store rules.

Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook, appeared to reconcile their conflict when Cook invited Musk for a tour of Apple’s headquarters in November 2022.

Will Elon Musk Build a Grok Phone?

Elon Musk with Grok AI chatbot
Depositphotos Photo by MuhammadAlimaki

Musk is no stranger to innovation. He is the founder of SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Neuralink He has also had tremendous success as the CEO of Tesla, which propelled him to the top of the billionaires’ list.
Investors who placed their faith in Elon Musk and his innovative capabilities have been handsomely rewarded. Over the last five years, Tesla increased in value by over 1,000%, handily beating investing in the S&P 500, which rose only 100%.

Responding to a tweet yesterday by Mike Benz asking for a Grok phone, Musk replied that if Apple integrates AI spyware in their OS, he might do it.

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