Apple is working on an AI coding tool similar to GitHub Copilot - and it could be a game changer for its generative AI ambitions

Apple CEO Tim Cook arrives as people stand in line to purchase the Apple Vision Pro headset at the Fifth Avenue Apple store on February 02, 2024 in New York City
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Apple is reportedly working on the development of an AI code generation tool as the firm teases a flurry of upcoming generative AI features and tools over the next several months. 

Reports from Bloomberg suggest the company has been working on the tool for the last year as part of a major update to Xcode, the company’s existing programming software used by developers.

The new AI programming tool will reportedly function similar to GitHub’s Copilot tool, which enables users to generate code based on natural language prompts and convert code across multiple programming languages.

GitHub Copilot has been immensely popular among developers since its launch. The AI coding assistant now boasts over one million users, and Microsoft has been keen to roll out new capabilities for the platform.

Recent updates to GitHub Copilot included the launch of new live chat features that can support programmers in real-time, offering advice on code curation.

This new Xcode AI tool will be able to automatically create and finish lines of code, which Apple hopes will enable developers to rapidly accelerate app creation.

Testing of the new functionality has begun internally, Bloomberg reported, and the firm could be preparing to launch the feature to third-party software developers “as early as next year”.

Apple picks up pace in the generative AI race

The move from Apple comes amid a period of intense speculation over its generative AI plans. The tech giant has outlined plans to integrate the technology within Siri and a range of other applications.

But so far, Apple’s foray into the AI race has been subdued compared to other major industry stakeholders such as Microsoft, or Google.

That’s not to say that Apple isn’t making significant strides in this regard, however.

In December, the company released a raft of open source tools as part of a move to provide greater machine learning capabilities on Apple Silicon.

Known as ‘Apple MLX’, the machine learning framework was developed by the firm’s ML research division, and allows users to build AI tools using its in-house silicon.

The MLX framework is available through open source libraries such as PyPI and GitHub, Apple confirmed at the time.

Prior to the launch of Apple MLX, speculation over the extent of Apple’s generative AI ambitions had been growing for some time. Reports from July 2023 suggested that the company was developing its own internal large language model (LLM) known as ‘Apple GPT’.

Details on this model have yet to be confirmed by the tech giant.

CEO Tim Cook has also been reserved on the matter, but in an August interview with CNBC he revealed the firm had plans to ramp up the integration of generative AI capabilities across its product offerings.

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

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