Local orchestration vs. the cloud

Excellent post by Jason Snell on the upcoming era of orchestrated apps, where much of what we do with our iPhone might be using AI as a bridge between multiple apps and their local data:

When everything is orchestrated properly, all the capabilities of all your apps are put into a big soup, and the AI system at the heart of your device can choose the right capabilities to do what you need it to do—without you having to specify all the steps it needs to take to get there.

This is a good strategy for Apple because it leverages their strengths with privacy and a complete ecosystem of apps. However, there’s a problem, something I’ve written about a few times including recently in this post about Siri before WWDC. What if you want the same functionality on your HomePod? Or on your Mac that doesn’t have the same apps installed? App intents are local to each device, potentially creating a disjointed experience when not at your iPhone.

If an assistant doesn’t have consistent functionality everywhere, something in the illusion is broken. Apple’s solution can still be good, but I think it will always come up a little bit short. (They may make up for it by having an overwhelming advantage in third-party apps that use intents, and the fact that most people’s computing is predominantly or only on their phones anyway.)

A different take would be for the apps and intents to be synced with the cloud, so that they are universally available to your assistant from all devices. There are privacy trade-offs on this path, but I think ultimately it’s where many people will want to go.

Google is probably best positioned for this alternative, more cloud-based approach to AI. They already have your private email, and I’m not sure most people consider whether it’s encrypted or just sitting around on Google servers. I wouldn’t rule out OpenAI either, since something like this is clearly part of their vision. Whoever it is, I could see Apple and another company rising to become a new sort of duopoly for AI. Apple as the private, mostly on-device option, and someone else as the always available, cross-platform assistant.

Manton Reece @manton