The Apple, Google AI Pact Risks Further Big Tech Antitrust Crackdown

The Apple logo on the side of the company's flagship retail store in San Francisco, Calif. on May 21, 2016. Photo credit: Ken Yeung

It’s no surprise Apple has AI ambitions, especially after falling behind its Big Tech peers. A new report reveals the company is in “active negotiations” with Google to bring its Gemini technology to the iPhone. Should a deal materialize, Apple would license Google’s generative AI offering to help bring such technology to iOS.

This mega-deal would be an extension of the existing partnership between the two tech giants — Google has long been the default search engine on Apple’s Safari web browser. However, such a move could create unwanted scrutiny from U.S. and European Union regulators.

Google’s Monopoly on Mobile Gen AI

Google Gemini has emerged as a viable contender for OpenAI’s generative AI crown since launching as Bard in 2023. It’s now powering such capabilities on the Samsung Galaxy S24 smartphones. And if Gemini arrives on the iPhone, Google could have a firm hold on mobile-based generative AI, especially since it could be on three of the most popular devices today — Samsung’s S24, Apple’s iPhone, and the Google Pixel.

It’s a feat OpenAI has yet to achieve, though Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says Apple held talks with the ChatGPT maker and a deal could happen.

Having multiple LLMs on the iPhone would be a smart move by Apple to avoid regulatory mistakes of the past. EU regulators have penalized it over its App Store, its default iPhone search engine setting, and more. In addition, Apple is being probed after allegedly blocking web apps in Europe. But if Google and OpenAI are powering iOS gen AI features, it could lessen the chances of an investigation.

However, that doesn’t get Google off the hook. Gemini’s reach across the S24, iPhone and Pixel could generate scrutiny. But as Moor Insights & Strategy chief analyst Patrick Moorhead tells Marketwatch, regulatory concerns will likely depend on whether there is any exclusivity in these deals.

What Happens to Siri?

Apple’s Siri was the first mainstream virtual assistant on a mobile device. But since its launch over a decade ago, it doesn’t seem to have reached its full potential. If Google and Apple seal the deal, does this mean Google will sink its hooks into Siri and turn it into Google Gemini just like it did with its own Assistant?

Sheltering Microsoft and OpenAI

Does the U.S. government have the appetite and resources to tackle another major AI regulatory case? The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department are jockeying to see which agency will investigate OpenAI on antitrust grounds. It’s alleged Microsoft’s investment in the tech startup gives both companies unfair advantages in AI. Under FTC chair Lina Khan’s leadership, the FTC has aggressively pursued Big Tech, with mixed results.

If regulators turn their eyes toward the Apple-Google partnership, it could provide Microsoft and OpenAI some breathing room. Surely these agencies can pursue multiple probes simultaneously, but Apple and Google seem to be bigger fish in the public eye. Emerging victorious in a lawsuit, if one happens, could be a momentous event for the FTC and DOJ.

Expect more news about Apple’s AI ambition as we near the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June.

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