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Kelly Evans: The Anti-Gutenberg moment

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

As annoying as Apple's launch of its long-awaited A.I. offering was at its Worldwide Developers Conference yesterday (you're gonna make us wait over an hour while telling us about upgrades to the WatchOS?), I'm in the Dan Ives camp that this truly was a game-changing moment for the company--if not the whole world.  

Why? What's the big deal with features like a slightly-beefed-up-Siri? It's the arrival of convenient and reliable A.I. "answers" on your everyday device. We used to just ask Siri to set a timer or check the weather, because we knew that was all she was really capable of doing. But now...she can do more things like ChatGPT can (and point us there directly when she can't).  

"Hey Siri, give me a low-carb recipe I can make in 30 minutes with ground beef, tomatoes, and quinoa tonight." Done. "Hey Siri, who won the European elections last weekend?" With the next-generation iPhones, you should get a simple answer to questions like that (plus lots of inter-app functionality), instead of the current smorgasbord of Safari web links. 

It's extremely useful. It's also a bit problematic. Because the whole "one answer to everything" thing doesn't always work that well in real life. Daniel Gross, in fact, observes that the arrival of this technology is kind of like a reversal of the Gutenberg moment that helped give rise to modernity. The printing press, he said in a recent interview, "was a technology to disseminate information...and the anti-book is the LLM agent."  

Lovely! And while everyone can sense that the arrival of this technology will have massive societal impacts, analysts are split on the more mundane and near-term question of whether this will help Apple sell more iPhones. Sales, after all, have been on a downward slide since 2021.  

Barclays trader Jeffrey Rand echoed many, writing this morning that he "came away from the event generally underwhelmed." "Unimpressed" was the title of a Swiss trading desk's market commentary. But Gil Luria at D.A. Davidson had the opposite take, upgrading the shares to buy on the belief these new features will trigger an iPhone upgrade cycle, and calling it "another Napster to iTunes moment." Atif Malik at Citi went even further, saying it was the "Best WWDC Ever."  

As for the market's verdict, Apple shares closed down 2% yesterday, but have already recouped much of that this morning, and are within a few dollars of their all-time high. Yesterday's event may not have been as captivating as, say, Steve Jobs launching the iPhone or iPad. But in the long run, it could actually prove much more significant.  

See you at 1 p.m! 

Kelly 

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