Feb 3, 2023
California’s New Gold Rush: Big Tech Moves to Gain the Edge in AI
(Bloomberg) -- Big tech is about to go big on artificial intelligence. Companies from Microsoft Corp. to Meta Platforms Inc. are telling investors AI is a “huge opportunity” for growth — and are pledging hefty investments to outpace rivals.
Mentions of “AI,” “machine learning” and related terms have soared in the latest round of company earnings calls, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of the transcripts from 15 of the biggest software and semiconductor companies. AI seemed immune even as talk of cost-cutting dominated: There were more than 200 mentions of terms related to the subject, by far the most since it started getting noticeable mentions on US tech earnings calls in 2013.
Most of Silicon Valley’s major players have had AI products in the works for years. But the race was officially on after OpenAI’s November release of ChatGPT, the generative AI chatbot that became a viral hit, rang through the industry like a warning shot.
“Let me acknowledge, AI has become a big topic of conversation this year,” International Business Machines Corp. Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna said on his company’s call last month. “I was in Davos last week and it probably came up at almost every single discussion around technology — what’s happening with AI, as well as what’s happening with OpenAI.” ChatGPT, he said, is the latest in a series of breakthroughs that have galvanized the industry, comparing it to IBM’s Watson and Google’s DeepMind.
The calls made one thing clear: Everyone wants to become an AI leader — or thinks they already are. Here’s what some of big tech’s top brass had to say over the last few weeks:
“More than six years ago, I first spoke about Google being an AI-first company. Since then, we’ve been a leader in developing AI” — Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai
“We’re going to lead in the AI era, knowing that maximum enterprise value gets created during platform shifts” — Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
“One of my goals for Meta is to build on our research to become a leader in generative AI in addition to our leading work in recommendation AI” — Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg
“Tesla is really one of the world’s leading AI companies. This is kind of a big deal, with AI on the software side and on the hardware side” — Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk
Meanwhile, semiconductor company Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is keen to cash in on the huge hardware investments the new technology will demand.
“Over the next several years, one of our largest growth opportunities is in AI, which is in the early stages of transforming virtually every industry service and product,” AMD CEO Lisa Su said.
Meta first began mentioning AI in its earnings calls as far back as 2013, when it announced the formation of an AI research group to make sense of all the content shared on Facebook. Since then mentions increased slowly across the industry and began to take a more prominent role starting in 2016. While talk of the new technology ebbed and flowed during that time, it’s now officially unavoidable.
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