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Apple cheating on Siri with Ernie Bot to satisfy its AI needs in China

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Apple cheating on Siri with Ernie Bot to satisfy its AI needs in China

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When Apple’s CEO Tim Cook went to China to open a new flagship store in Shanghai, he also used the time to make deals that will tailor the iPhone better to the Chinese market.
Tim Cook lauded the local manufacturers that make the iPhone and its green manufacturing possible. He also promised that Apple will release the Vision Pro mixed reality headgear for the Chinese market as soon as this year.

Apple’s all-important iPhone market share in China is on a downwards trend, eaten away by local competition and geopolitical considerations, so Tim Cook now aims to tailor the iPhone experience better to the local customers.

In just another such example, Apple has apparently decided to use the localized chatbot of China’s search giant Baidu on its iPhones going forward. Called Ernie Bot, Baidu’s chatbot name stands for Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration.

Baidu has been developing its AI-powered chatbot service since 2019, and last October it announced Ernie 4.0, the large language model on which the iPhone’s Earnie Bot will be based in China.

Even before that announcement, however, Apple’s Siri virtual assistant searches defaulted to Baidu in China, rather than Google as in the rest of the globe. Apple’s iPhone sales in China, however, are down nearly 25% since the beginning of the year, and this is a rather unprecedented slump, so it is apparently trying to placate the local market any way it can.

Samsung suffered a similar fate in China not long ago when it adopter Baidu’s large language Earnie model for the AI duties on its Galaxy S24 series, instead of using Google’s Gemini AI like in the rest of its markets. Even the lauded “Circle to Search” feature that made a cameo with the Galaxy S24 series is powered by Baidu’s AI cloud there. 

It remains to be seen if these local AI adaptations will result in Apple or Samsung’s market share stabilizing in China, as well as how will Baidu’s Earnie Bot perform compared to its main competitor, ChatGPT.

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