Elon Musk might make an X Phone with Samsung, and pigs can fly

There’s been a lot of talk about AI since yesterday following Apple’s announcement of several new AI features for its devices. Apple has collaborated with OpenAI to integrate ChatGPT with Siri and to use its AI models to power the writing assistant functionality on its smartphones, notebooks, and tablets.

Elon Musk, who wears many different hats including one as the owner of X, naturally had a few things to say about everything that was unveiled yesterday. He has no love lost for Apple or OpenAI, so his posts on X yesterday were a mix of memes signifying the fall of Apple to questioning its claims of privacy for cloud-based AI processing and highlighting OpenAI’s shortcomings.

He does have motive to go after them since his many projects include xAI and its AI model Grok, which is a competitor for OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Musk has time and again made posts on X highlighting how Grok’s capabilities and processing abilities are far better than ChatGPT, which burst on the scene a few months ago and has become the poster child for generative AI.

Musk’s X can often feel like an echo chamber where many of his likeminded followers agree with what he posts and make predictions about what one of Musk’s many companies can do to disrupt the space. He often interacts with those predictions with just enough vagueness that keeps the echo chamber going, giving his followers something to relish.

One such prediction came yesterday following Apple’s WWDC event when a follower convincingly said they were “calling it” that X will team up with Samsung to make an “X phone.” The outlandish predictions continued, with X OS being an open source operating system that assured user privacy, the device integrating seamlessly with Tesla cars and robo taxis, Optimus robots, Boring Company transit systems, Starlink satellite internet, and Neuralink implants, basically everything consumer-facing that Musk is involved in. I half expected this genius new device to have the capability to launch SpaceX rockets too!

The person even pointed to the possibility that Starlink could start buying third-tier cellphone companies and improve their 5G networks with Starlink-connected towers in far flung areas and at Tesla supercharger stations. I imagine the person in all their excitement forgot to provide a place in this utopian concept for xAI’s Grok. It wasn’t this picture perfect reality of vertical integration that stood out the most to me, it was the claim that this mythical new device would be made in collaboration with Samsung.

In true Musk fashion, he responded to this tweet an “It is not out of the question,” post that neither confirms nor denies anything but also doesn’t say anything of substance. It’s decidedly vague. What’s not out of the question? That there can be an X OS? An actual X Phone? A partnership with Samsung? Integration with all of those services? Or perhaps the only real possibility is Starlink buying third-tier cellphone companies because that’s what seems the most plausible of the lot?

Focusing on just the collaboration with Samsung, it’s not something I see happening. For starters, Samsung isn’t big on making co-branded phones. You don’t see it slapping on other tech brands on its devices, even as its Chinese rivals make phones branded with Leica cameras. You’d have to think as far back as the Galaxy S5 Google Play Edition to find an example, and even that can’t be taken in this context since Samsung and Google have a symbiotic relationship. Samsung needs Android and Google needs Samsung since it makes the best Android phones on the market.

The assumption here is that this Samsung-made phone will run on X OS, which doesn’t exist anywhere other than the imagination of this person. There’s a reason why Android and iOS are the only two mobile operating systems left. We remember the others, from Windows Phone, Symbian, BlackBerry OS, Tizen, Bada, Ubuntu Touch, none of them could survive. The ecosystem is simply not there to support a third operating system.

Samsung realized this in time and gave up on its Tizen OS for smartphones that it had once developed as a hedge against Android. It won’t be pulled into a strategic distraction that would be to try and push a new mobile OS through the Android and iOS duopoly that simply can’t be broken now.

There’s no denying that Musk is one of the most influential minds in the world today. He has achieved an incredible level of success and the work some of his companies are doing have the potential to benefit humanity in ways that perhaps many of us can’t comprehend right now. That doesn’t take away from the fact that he can also be a controversial figure. His opinions are often against convention, the way he airs those opinions often invite criticism, and he’s also not shy to make his political preferences known.

You don’t see any top executives at Samsung operate like that. The difference in culture is night and day, and in my personal opinion that’s something which would also prevent Samsung from considering any potential partnership along these lines. Perhaps it feels plausible because Samsung and Elon Musk do have an existing relationship. Musk met Samsung boss Lee Jae-yong last year to discuss the production of self-driving car chips.

The main difference here is that this relationship isn’t consumer-facing. Meetings about the production of complex semiconductors rarely make it out of business newspapers and journals. You could stop any Tesla owner and ask whether they know who makes one of the many chips inside their car and the vast majority will not have any idea. A consumer-facing product like a smartphone carries a different reputational risk and it seems to me that would be a risk Samsung may not be willing to take.

Musk’s fans can speculate all they want but this is one of those predictions that seem beyond the realm of possibility, because if even is Musk is willing to launch an attack against the Android and iOS duopoly with X OS, there’s not much that Samsung stands to gain from this, particularly when its partnership with Google is deeper than it has ever been.

https://x.com/elonmusk/status/1800393639019037144

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