Big Tech companies have a new obsession: artificial intelligence.
This week, chief executives across the sector packed earnings calls with mentions of the heavily hyped technology, which until recently existed more in the background than as a solid contributor to the bottom line.
In conference calls after financial results, tech execs uttered the phrases “AI,” “generative AI,” or “machine learning” from two to six times as often as they did in the previous quarter, according to a review of conference transcripts by Reuters.
Executives from Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc, behind the latest big rivalry in tech, took their battle to the conference-call front lines. On Thursday, Alphabet appeared to edge out the competition. The Google-owner’s call referred to AI 45 times, up from 13 times at the end of the third quarter, outpacing Microsoft, whose call was peppered with 39 references, up from 15 in the previous quarter.
The release of software that can generate virtually text and images, exemplified by ChatGPT, a chatbot from the startup OpenAI, has set off a race to integrate AI into more products and for investors to bet on which company will emerge on top.
Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI and aggressive efforts to make ChatGPT widely available to its cloud customers, among other plans, represent a new challenge to Alphabet. Industry observers have said embedding human-like, ChatGPT-style responses in Microsoft’s Bing search engine could give it a leg up on Alphabet’s Google, long the information search leader.
In a potential nod to the public’s ChatGPT fixation, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said Google remained in the game.
“We’ll pursue this work boldly, but with a deep sense of responsibility,” he said.
AI software will be an important focus for Alphabet, which is planning to make its own LaMDA chatbot software publicly available in the coming weeks, he added.
David Heger, an analyst with Edward Jones, said Google was opening up more about its large AI investments after staying quiet.
“They were much more vocal about how that benefits pretty much all parts of their business and how they expect that to be further integrated into their business going forward,” he said.