November 8, 2023
By Colin Bryce
As delegates gathered at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco for the Google Cloud Next '23 conference, there was only really one thing on everyone’s mind.
Amid the clinking of wine glasses and beer bottles on the open-air terraces and plazas, the chatter was all about the issue of the moment – the stratospheric rise of artificial intelligence (AI) over the past 12 months and, more specifically, Google’s place in the new order of what has become the world’s dominant technology.
Some have argued that the company, which has done more than any other to advance the possibilities of AI in search engines and business software, was caught asleep at the wheel last December when OpenAI – a startup company founded just a few miles from the convention center – launched ChatGPT, a large-language model (LLM) platform, which took the world by storm.
When Google realized others were assimilating all its AI knowledge into their own smart new products, that threatened to turn the tables on the company’s dominance, so it decided to pivot.
A policy shift introduced earlier this year aimed at protecting Google's AI advancements as part of a broader shift within the company to defend its position in the AI industry.
The company has since restructured its AI operations to accelerate product development, with a focus on launching AI tools quickly.
The search giant merged Google Brain with DeepMind, aiming to make progress in AI at a faster pace. But the company's new approach comes as voices in the industry are calling for greater caution in AI development.
At this point I should declare an interest.
As one of a handful of official Google partners in the United Kingdom, this has a potentially significant bearing for the future direction of my company.
Google's size and influence mean that its shift towards faster AI product launches has raised concerns among regulators, researchers and business leaders.
The company's participation in a White House meeting reflects the growing scrutiny of AI development and safety.
It was against this backdrop that our team approached the San Francisco conference, with around 20,000 Google executives, employees, developers and partners from around the world.
Writing on the wall
Before anyone starts to feel too sorry for Google, delegates learned that it recently surpassed a milestone of $32 billion annual revenue in second-quarter 2023, reflecting its success across various industries.
And despite challenges from competitors, more businesses are now embracing its AI technology.
One of its standout achievements, trumpeted at the conference, was the success of AI-powered tools, such as Duet AI, designed to assist users in various tasks, from email writing to presentation creation.
While these are still in their early stages, they hold significant potential for small and midsized enterprises (SMEs).
The ability to have AI assist with content creation, automate routine tasks and offer communication suggestions can save time and manpower, ultimately becoming indispensable productivity boosters.
Google's partnership with NVIDIA, a leader in GPU technology, gives it preferential access to hardware required for running AI applications.
This partnership provides SMEs using Google's AI-powered solutions access to cutting-edge hardware, further enhancing the efficiency and speed of AI-driven processes.
The company’s commitment to AI extends beyond productivity tools, as it is actively integrating AI into its security systems to combat evolving cyber threats.
Google’s Vertex AI platform offers more than 100 foundation models and industry-specific models, making generative AI more accessible.
IS ALL THIS activity a good or a bad thing for businesses and consumers, or should we be encouraging greater competition?
For all its initial success, OpenAI remains a relative upstart, nipping at the heels of behemoth companies such as Google and others.
The message to delegates in San Francisco was that, while chatter around ChatGPT may have temporarily stolen the spotlight, Google’s bounce-back is well underway.
Colin Bryce is founder/managing director of Cobry, a Glasgow, Scotland-based digital transformation company and Google Cloud partner.