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ETtech Explainer: Big Tech battle it out for AI control

The brand wars between technology behemoths are trending again. This time it is Microsoft versus Google. The foot soldiers are AI chatbots driven by the search engines themselves. Last week, Google unveiled Bard, its own AI chatbot and ChatGPT rival powered by its Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) —“to trusted testers”, with the plans of releasing to the general public shortly afterwards.

What’s the hype about?
In late 2022, Microsoft-backed AI chatbot ChatGPT was unveiled. It became the fastest online platform to reach 100 million monthly users in just two months. For comparison, TikTok took 9 months to reach there. From Poetry to history lessons to coding, it can do anything. The world is hooked but Google is worried

The $100-billion mistake
Unfortunately for Google, the demo of Bard answering queries had an error which was picked up by global media and the subsequent backlash shaved around $100 billion market value off the search engine giant. Reportedly, some Google employees are criticising its leadership for the “rushed”, “botched” and “un-Googley”, launch.

Also read | ChatGPT, Bard & Ernie: The three musketeers of AI

Why does Google need Bard to trump ChatGPT?

Discover the stories of your interest

Let us trace this back to Microsoft’s lost child — the search engine Bing. Google’s search engine has been the clear market leader for as long as it has existed, and Microsoft’s default Bing never found much acceptance in the market. But the overwhelming response to ChatGPT, gave the company an opportunity to reincarnate Bing with a touch of the popular AI chatbot.

Impact on IT companies?
In a note, JP Morgan said that ChatGPT will slow down market share gains and deflate pricing for Indian IT companies in the short term. Consulting firms like Accenture and Deloitte will gain market share over Indian IT firms like Infosys and Wipro in the near term, it said. Technology companies are keeping a close watch on how these platforms can be leveraged for their businesses and are also investing in ChatGPT — like Infosys. Meanwhile, companies like TCS and HCLTech, believe that these solutions have to reach a level of maturity and trust before they can be deployed for enterprise usage

Investment that has gone into ChatGPT, Google’s Bard
Microsoft had initially invested $1 billion in the company and is reported to have invested another $10 billion in it. Google has not disclosed its investments in Bard specifically. The company has also invested $300 million in AI startup Anthropic and other AI companies like Cohere and C3.ai. The company also owns AI research platform DeepMind which it bought for over $545 million in 2014

Also read | As ChatGPT takes the internet by storm, here’s what its rivals are up to

Great, so when can I start using it?
Slow down. Experts have sounded a word of caution on these platforms. While Bard’s error was just a symptom, it is the main concern of critics. Generative AI platforms are heavily dependent on online conversation to generate content. Given the amount of noise, promotional content and misinformation out there, experts worry that the biased data used by the platforms will throw out a tsunami of misinformation

Why are these chatbots special?
Chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard are based on the concept of a generative AI. Which means that the platform combs through a massive amount of available information on any given topic online to generate the simplest possible explanation for a query. The keyword being “simple” in a way that feels like a human being has written the response

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