2023 Boosts Big Tech’s AI monopoly? Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, and others wield money power | Tech News

2023 Boosts Big Tech’s AI monopoly? Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, and others wield money power

A new crop of AI startups has shaken up Silicon Valley — and the wider business world — throughout 2023, but there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: Big Tech still wields power.

| Updated on: Jan 01 2024, 10:05 IST
Google Cloud 2023 innovations: AI-powered collaborative workspaces - what it unveiled
 AI startups
1/7 Generative AI in Google Workspace: Google Cloud introduced AI-powered features in Google Docs and Gmail, aligning with Google's AI Principles. Users can collaborate seamlessly with AI assistance in content creation, brainstorming, data analysis, and auto-generation of multimedia content.  (unsplash)
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2/7 Duet AI in Google Workspace: Duet AI enhances productivity in Google Workspace, providing features like content refinement in Gmail and Google Docs, image creation in Google Slides, data insights in Google Sheets, and fostering meaningful connections in Google Meet. (pexel)
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3/7 Duet AI in Google Cloud: Launched during Google I/O 2023, Duet AI in Google Cloud offers personalized experiences, including real-time code recommendations, chat assistance, and AI-powered prompts for building intelligent business applications on AppSheet.  (unsplash)
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4/7 Vertex AI Search and Conversation: It empowers developers with limited ML skills to leverage Google's foundation models and search expertise. This tool enables the creation of enterprise-grade generative AI applications by combining various enterprise systems.
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5/7 PaLM API, MakerSuite, and Vertex AI: Google Cloud introduced the PaLM API for safe experimentation with LLMs, MakerSuite for easy prototyping and model tuning, and new capabilities in Vertex AI, including gen AI support, three new foundation models, Embedding APIs, RLHF, and a Generative AI studio.  (unsplash)
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6/7 Digital Watermarking on Vertex AI: Leveraging Google DeepMind SynthID, Google Cloud introduced advanced digital watermarking on Vertex AI, embedding watermarks directly into image pixels to make them invisible to the human eye and resistant to tampering. (unsplash)
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7/7 Strategic Partnerships and Customer Collaborations: Collaborated with ONDC for a nationwide hackathon, democratizing access to digital commerce powered by gen AI; Partnered with MeitY to offer cybersecurity scholarships and train government officials;  Extended the partnership with Apollo Hospitals for the omnichannel digital healthcare experience, Apollo 24|7; Established a "Chair Professorship" in gen AI at IIT Bombay. (unaplash)
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In the wake of Microsoft Corp.’s $10 billion investment in OpenAI in January, other tech giants raced to partner with leading AI startups through funding and cloud computing deals. (Pixabay)

 A new crop of artificial intelligence startups has shaken up Silicon Valley — and the wider business world — throughout this year, but there's one thing that hasn't changed: Big Tech still wields power. In the wake of Microsoft Corp.'s $10 billion investment in OpenAI in January, other tech giants raced to partner with leading AI startups through funding and cloud computing deals. Salesforce Inc. led a round in Hugging Face at a $4.5 billion valuation. Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. invested billions in OpenAI rival Anthropic. And Nvidia Corp. seemed to back almost every AI startup of note. 

The net effect is that many of the most promising AI startups now depend heavily on the old guard of dominant tech companies for their financing and infrastructure needs. That dynamic is starting to draw the attention of regulators.

Microsoft's partnership with OpenAI is facing fresh scrutiny from UK and US competition regulators. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission has been tasked by the Biden administration with promoting “a fair, open, and competitive AI ecosystem.” The agency has previously requested public comment about whether large cloud computing contracts are anti-competitive.

“What regulators might be concerned about is that the story of Big Tech's strategic investment in AI startups could have the potential to become the story of Big Tech's AI monopoly,” said Ngor Luong, senior research analyst who focuses on AI investment trends at Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology. 

For AI companies, these deals with Big Tech can serve as a vital lifeline. It's extremely costly and computationally intensive to build large language models, the technology that underpins AI chatbots like ChatGPT. Large tech companies are in the small camp of businesses with the infrastructure and funds to support these efforts.

For Big Tech companies, these deals can serve as a means to cement their grip on a competitive and rapidly evolving market after some were caught off guard by the massive success of OpenAI's ChatGPT a year ago. These partnerships can also help tech giants bolster demand for their products, whether it's the chips sold by Nvidia or cloud-computing services from Microsoft, Google and Amazon. 

In a blog post this month, Nvidia said it has made “more than two dozen investments” this year. “These partnerships stimulate joint innovation, enhance the NVIDIA platform and expand the ecosystem,” the company said.

In addition to OpenAI, Microsoft has invested in Inflection AI and Adept, among other billion-dollar AI startups, but these deals are much smaller than the $13 billion it has committed so far to the ChatGPT-maker. 

Microsoft's unique relationship with OpenAI was put on full display in November when Chief Executive Officer Sam Altman was briefly ousted from the startup. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella played a key role, along with other investors, in forcing the board to reverse its decision. At one point Microsoft said it would hire Altman and his OpenAI colleagues to form a new Microsoft AI unit.

In response to regulators' concerns, Microsoft emphasized that it doesn't own a traditional stake in OpenAI. “It is important to note that Microsoft does not own any portion of OpenAI and is simply entitled to a share of profit distributions,” the company said last week. 

While Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet have all been very active this year in backing AI startups, two other Big Tech companies have largely stayed away from such deals: Apple Corp. and Meta Platforms Inc. 

Apple Inc. has built its own large language model called Ajax and rolled out an internal chatbot dubbed “Apple GPT.” Meta, meanwhile, has an open source large language model and has struck partnerships with other Big Tech companies, including Microsoft and Amazon.

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First Published Date: 01 Jan, 06:51 IST