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Apple's big keynote should make plenty of startups nervous

Ana Altchek   

Apple's big keynote should make plenty of startups nervous
  • Apple's WWDC event unveiled AI features that should make some startups nervous.
  • Apple has a history of making a particular app or service seem irrelevant by building a rival feature into iPhones or Macs.

When Apple launches something new, it can put other startups on notice.

That was certainly the case during Apple's WWDC event this week, during which CEO Tim Cook and other executives detailed a host of AI features coming to iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

Shortly after, the internet started buzzing about what this could mean for startups that offer similar services.

"How many startups did Apple kill in one hour of their Apple Intelligence event?" one TikTok user said in a viral post. "Let's count."

@gianluca.mauro Apple startups #Ai #learnontiktok #artificialintelligence #business #machinelearning #product #ux #entrepreneur #apple #startup ♬ original sound - Gianluca Mauro

It's not necessarily a death sentence if Apple positions itself in competition with an app or service.

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston famously declined to sell his company to Apple. Houston previously told Business Insider that Steve Jobs told him he thought Dropbox was a feature, not a product, and said something to the effect of: "Alright, well I guess we're gonna have to go kill you."

Dropbox, which continues to compete with iCloud, survived and went public. It's currently valued at over $7 billion.

But there are plenty of examples of Apple bringing the heat by incorporating a feature into its devices similar to one a startup or smaller company offers.

Remember flashlight apps? There's little need to download a third-party app after Apple baked the flashlight into iOS 7 years ago. There's also the once-popular annotation app Skitch, which eventually sold itself to Evernote. Apple introduced its own markup tool on Macs.

With the updates announced at WWDC, Apple Intelligence will be able to rewrite, proofread, and summarize text in apps. It will also have an image-generating tool and a revamped Siri with advanced language understanding and text capabilities.

Other highlights included a new Passwords app that lets users store and access passwords and a whiteboard-like Math Notes tool for solving algebraic equations and creating graphs from text.

So who should be getting nervous now?

Those watching Apple's keynote were quick to chime in on social media about who could wind up on Apple's potential kill list, including Grammarly, Midjourney, Humane's AI Pin, and 1Password. AI math or calculator startups, journaling apps, and other organizational apps could also be vulnerable to replacement with some of the new updates.

But a Grammarly spokesperson told Business Insider that it welcomes Apple to the space where it's "been operating for over 15 years."

"Whenever new entrants come into our market, the reality is that we see increased demand for Grammarly," a company spokesperson said. "We are focused on continuing to innovate our OS-agnostic enterprise-grade AI communications service that works across over 500,000 apps and websites."

Erik Noyes, who teaches about AI entrepreneurship at Babson College, said Apple's new AI features aren't "a huge deal" to the startup world at large. Noyes said WWDC might impact immediately adjacent startups in the space, but Apple Intelligence won't make a dent in AI startups at large.

The companies have a few months before Apple Intelligence comes to the market. Even then, the new system will only be available on the latest software, iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia.

But it's likely been a tense week for many startups, as they realized that Apple is coming to town and ready to eat their lunch.