Apple’s latest iPads feature a ‘powerful chip for AI.’

Apple’s new iPads feature what the company calls “an insanely powerful chip for AI”, a sign of its growing focus on artificial-intelligence services.

Just months after introducing the M3 chip with new Macs, the company announced the “M4” for its latest iPad Pro device on Tuesday.

Apple and Nvidia are rushing to produce more powerful processors that can handle vast amounts of data in response to the AI developers’ unquenchable thirst for computing power.

Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have all unveiled new AI-focused processors in the last few months.

Tim Millet is Apple’s vice president of platform architecture. He praised the M4’s combination of central processing unit (CPU), graphics processor, and AI capabilities, which Apple calls its “neural engines”, as a major step up from its previous chips.

At an Apple event held on Tuesday, he said that the M4 chip was “a powerful AI chip” when these components were combined.

Investors have pressed Apple to reveal new AI features in order to compete with Microsoft’s OpenAI and Google. This is at a time where iPhone sales are falling.

Since OpenAI’s breakthrough ChatGPT bot was launched 18 months ago, the number of AI apps has increased dramatically. This has led to a race for powerful processors to create so-called “large language models” — AI systems that can produce humanlike text and images.

Apple’s M1 processor, which will replace Intel chips in Mac computers by 2020, is based on Arm-based processors.

The new iPad Pro models, unveiled on Tuesday at an event, feature thinner and brighter displays that require processors with more sophistication. Apple’s M4 chip, which is similar to earlier versions of the M-series, will likely be the first of many upgrades to Apple’s custom chips in the future. This will allow for advanced AI capabilities.

Nvidia is a Silicon Valley-based company that has become a highly sought-after chip by both start ups and Big Tech firms. Last month, it launched a new generation of its AI processors in an effort to consolidate its position.

Analysts believe that Apple’s new chips will allow it to bring AI features from the cloud to customers’ devices and make apps faster, while also offering more privacy.

Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies, a tech industry analyst, said that Apple’s silicon architecture was flexible, and this gave them a competitive advantage. He also noted that Apple “was starting to be more deliberate in highlighting its [chips] role in AI”.

Millet claimed that the M4 made use of the most advanced manufacturing technology currently available in large scale – the second-generation 3-nm node – which is expected to increase power efficiency. The chip offers more memory bandwidth which is a key feature for AI applications that require a lot of data.

He made a dig at Apple’s competitors by saying that the iPhone maker has “for years” dedicated a portion to AI features known as the “neural engine”, claiming that it is “more powerful than any AI PC today”.

Microsoft, Apple’s rival PC maker, is planning an event for Windows this month. The focus is expected to be on AI and portability. New Arm-based processors will also be featured from Qualcomm.

Apple’s Senior Vice-President of Hardware Technologies, Johny Srouji said: “The new iPad Pro featuring M4 is an excellent example of how creating best-in class custom silicon allows for breakthrough products.”

Apple’s event featured a new Pencil stylus and an affordable 13-inch iPad.