Whipsmart: Apple buys 32 AI startups in 2023


artificial intelligence startups
It's another sign Cupertino is very serious about competing in artificial intelligence.
Photo: Cult of Mac

When it comes to deploying artificial intelligence in products, companies like Google might seem quicker on the draw than Apple. But no major tech company bought more AI startups than the iPhone-maker in 2023, according to a new report.

That suggests Apple might soon become a leader in generative AI rather than playing catch-up.

Apple bought 32 AI startups in 2023, more than any other tech company

Apple purchased 32 AI startup companies in 2023, more than any other major tech company, according to a Statista report that Stocklytics summarized.

While Apple bought 32, Google acquired 21, Meta purchased 18, Microsoft nabbed 17 and Amazon got 10.

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks more and more recently about Apple’s efforts and ambitions regarding AI. The new report seems like a little more proof in the pudding, along with Wednesday’s revelation of a new AI image-editing model that Apple researchers helped develop.

“As we look ahead, we will continue to invest in these and other technologies that will shape the future,” Cook said on Apple’s recent quarterly earnings call. “That includes artificial intelligence, where we continue to spend a tremendous amount of time and effort, and we’re excited to share the details of our ongoing work in that space later this year.”

A proactive approach to AI

“In the ongoing AI arms race, Apple is making sizeable deals with many AI startups, putting it in a good spot for future tech developments even as its competitors, Microsoft and Google, make considerable investments in already established AI companies,” Stocklytics analyst Edith Reads said of Apple AI acquisitions. “By acquiring promising AI startups, Apple gains access to top-tier talent and innovative technologies and consolidates its foothold in crucial AI domains, ensuring a competitive edge in the rapidly evolving tech landscape.”

Apple appears to be moving forward on AI on multiple fronts, including new hires, technology integration and expanded intellectual property. The company’s efforts to grab early-stage startups suggest it’s proactively trying to identify and invest in emerging AI trends and technologies.

The report also cited some of Apple’s recent AI acquisitions:

Back in 2020, Apple Inc. purchased Voysis, an AI startup involved in making digital voice assistants that naturally aid in comprehending natural language. Apple bought the company with the intention of improving Siri, the virtual assistant within its devices.

The Silicon Valley heavyweight also acquired WaveOne in March 2023, whose technology is helpful in ample video compression. Other Apple-secured technologies are Emotient, Laserlike, Drive.AI, and AI.Music, some of which have been embedded in iPhones,  Apple watches, and Macs.

More on the way

Companies like Google and Samsung have been quicker on the draw putting generative AI in front of customers and on devices. Meanwhile, Apple uses AI and machine learning in developing products.

And it turns out Apple actually leads on AI in another way, according to Stocklytics — equity and add-on investment in AI tech since 2017 (21% of its portfolio versus Microsoft’s 12% and Alphabet’s 8%).

Cupertino reportedly plans more AI acquisitions even after its current effort to bring on a German startup called Brighter.AI to work on Vision Pro. That’s another sign of a robust AI future for Apple.


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