OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and ex-Apple chief designer Jony Ive looks $1 billion for ‘iPhone of AI’

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Former Apple design chief Jony Ive and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman have been said to be collaborating to create an AI-powered personal device, and now they are looking to raise funds, as much as a billion dollars, according to The Information. The unnamed startup is sourcing funds from major venture capitalists, including potential investors such as Thrive Capital, an OpenAI investor, and Emerson Collective, a venture capital firm founded by Laurene Powell Jobs.

While details about the AI device remain scarce, sources say it won’t resemble a smartphone. Altman, a significant investor in the screenless Humane AI pin, may be working on a similar product with Ive.

The duo, as last reported, has been brainstorming ideas, focusing on creating a natural and intuitive way to interact with artificial intelligence, similar to how the first iPhone revolutionised mobile computing with its touchscreen.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has been in talks with Ive and Altman, proposing the involvement of Arm, the chip designer in which SoftBank holds a 90% stake. The trio has discussed the possibility of creating a new company that would leverage the talent and technology from their respective groups, but no deal has been finalised, and a formal announcement may take several months.

Ive, who left his role as Apple’s design chief in 2019, initially continued working with the company as a consultant through his firm LoveFrom. However, their partnership ended in 2022. Ive’s new venture with Altman could potentially put him in competition with Apple, which has been making significant strides in AI and machine learning across its hardware and services. Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted at AI-related announcements before the end of 2024.

To further bolster the project, Tang Tan, the departing design chief for iPhone and Watch at Apple, is joining LoveFrom in February. Tan will lead the hardware designing at the firm, working on the look and shape of upcoming products, including the AI device. During his tenure at Apple, Tan worked on the iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods.

While the project is still in its early stages, with a focus on hiring talent and creating concepts, sources say the firm is currently conceptualising devices for the home, with OpenAI providing software for these products. If a hardware product is successfully developed, it will likely take years before it reaches the market.

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