Here’s something I never thought I would ever say: Microsoft is offering a snappy web search tool in the form of ChatGPT-powered Bing. And its arch-rival Google, whose search page has virtually been undisputed, is in trouble for the first time in 24 years.
Microsoft announced its long-awaited integration of OpenAI's ChatGPT bot into Bing on February 7th calling it a "copilot for the web." And in a week, Google gave its now infamous presentation of its own chatbot for search, called Bard which was a disaster. But nonetheless, it looks like the new conversational AI wars has officially begun with the two tech-giants looking to own the next era of online search.
Firstly, let’s try and understand why is this scramble for winning the AI race important to Google?
Well, for starters, it means everything for Google. Historically, Google has been the undisputed leader when it comes AI innovation. Even before they were buzzwords, Google put the most faith and energy into developing neural networks and deep learning. They also successfully deployed these cutting-edge technologies into the wild in the form of Google Voice Assistant. But Google was caught napping when the entire tech industry was betting big on Large Language Applications. Only when the popularity and widespread adoption for ChatGPT which threatened Google’s very existence, it made a metaphorical leap off the couch and started working on Bard. This is evident from the fact that it failed to make its mark in its market debut with some clumsy and inaccurate responses to questions and demands by potential users. This was accompanied by the fact that Google’s ad revenues fell by eight per cent on Wednesday and wiped off $100 billion of shareholders’ wealth.
Currently, Google is the undisputed leader in online search, with over 80 per cent of the searches happening through Google. And as a business, Google still relies on the ad revenue generated through online search and listing as the significant income stream. With the advent of ChatGPT which garnered 100 million unique users within two months, it has raised the question that maybe the age of search engines is over and we’re on the precipice of a new age of answer engines.
On the other end, Microsoft, the IBM of our generation, which hasn’t had any significant disruptive innovations in years, now has impressed the entire world with the powerful and highly addictive ChatGPT, which currently holds the record for the fastest growing application ever. Microsoft’s venture into Large Language Applications began in mid 2019 when it invested 1 billion USD into Open AI the developers of ChatGPT and as of today holds 75 per cent stake in the company. This eventually turned out to be a massive win for Microsoft.
The sky is the limit when it comes to the use of an AI-powered search. The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, believes that at the foundation level, the new Bing can reduce the mundanity of coding , writing, searching for information, and even automating workflow. This is without a doubt a productivity boost. But the commercial aspect of AI will decide its true implications. Some market observers seem to think that it could be costly, and it would be out of reach for a large number of people, at least initially. And once the competition gets going, then the price will fall. Like the Android device, many of the tech companies may use something like ChatGPT as an internal component.
One of the key things in this story is that Microsoft has little to lose, and Google has everything to lose. While it may look like a battle between just the two, another tech giant is watching the war from the sidelines and has also made a cryptic announcement in early February about its foray into the conversational AI space. You guessed it right. It’s Apple. The way I see it, Conversational AI is the summation of the entire human knowledge squeezed into an AI or is at least the start of that process. It’s exciting to stop and think that we're living through history that could potentially redefine the way think, learn and interact online (and offline if the technology is deployed in Alexa and Google Home.)
About the author,
A student from the batch of 2022-24. A guy who loves all things tech and marketing. Shy at first but talkative and witty on provocation. Worked as an advertising writer for over two years for brands of all shapes and sizes. In the spare time he loves to read, travel & make new friends.