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Microsoft and Google go head-to-head with new products aimed at winning AI tech battle

The two Silicon Valley titans are rushing into the space after the ChatGPT bot caught the imagination of web users around the world.

LAST UPDATE | Feb 8th 2023, 3:54 PM

GOOGLE HAS ANNOUNCED a slew of features powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) as it ramps up a battle with Microsoft to maintain its dominance of the web-search industry.

The two Silicon Valley titans are rushing into the space after the ChatGPT bot caught the imagination of web users around the world with its ability to generate essays, speeches and even exam papers in seconds.

Microsoft has announced a multibillion-dollar partnership with ChatGPT maker OpenAI and unveiled new products yesterday, while Google tried to steal the march a day earlier by announcing its “Bard” chatbot.

Google vice-president Prabhakar Raghavan told an event in Paris that Bard was now being used by “trusted testers” but did not give a timeline for a public release, which is expected within weeks.

Analysts have suggested Google has rushed its announcement under pressure from Microsoft, but Raghavan denied the claim.

“This has been a multiyear journey,” he said, adding that no single event had “dramatically changed the course” of Google’s plans.

Google executives announced several AI-induced improvements across products including maps, translation and its image recognition tool Lens.

Microsoft has similarly said it will incorporate AI into its Office suite and Teams messaging app.

Bing integrates AI

But its promise to soup up its much-maligned Bing search engine put it on a collision course with Google, which has dominated the field for two decades.

The company announced yesterday that Bing will integrate the powerful capabilities of language-based artificial intelligence.

Microsoft hopes that beefing up Bing with ChatGPT-like qualities will radically update online search by providing ready-made answers using multiple sources instead of the familiar list of links to outside websites.

CEO Satya Nadella said it will herald a new era for online search.

AI chatbots like ChatGPT hold the promise of supplying users with ready-made answers from multiple sources, replacing the familiar list of links and ads that have been Google’s bread and butter for two decades.

“This technology is going to reshape pretty much every software category,” Nadella added at the event at Microsoft’s Washington, headquarters.

In its new format, Bing would review results from across the web and summarise them instead of merely presenting a list of links that the user must click and choose from.

“We applied the AI model to our core search ranking engine, and we saw the largest jump in relevance in two decades,” said Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft vice president.

On more complex searches, like planning a trip or buying a TV, an interactive chat mode would appear, asking for details on what is being requested.

OpenAI, which developed ChatGPT, is a California-based startup founded in 2015, with early funding from Elon Musk among others. Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI in 2019 and just inked a new multi-billion deal with the firm.

Search is Google’s golden cash cow and any serious challenge to its dominance seemed unthinkable until ChatGPT burst onto the scene two months ago.

Google’s search engine holds 84% of the global market share, bringing in tens of billions of dollars in ad sales every quarter and making up more than two thirds of the tech giant’s total revenue. Bing’s market share stood at nine percent last year.

According to reports, Google declared ChatGPT’s massive success a “code red” threat to the company with teams reassigned to brainstorm a swift answer and accelerate ongoing research on AI.

© AFP 2023

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