Google tries to stop the ChatGPT revolution

The non-announcement of Bard.

In Paris on February 8, Google did not unveil Bard. While quick demonstrations of generative AI did take place, Google says it wants to move forward cautiously, while presenting a very different vision than Microsoft.

Is Google’s dominance of search threatened by the emergence of new artificial intelligences, like ChatGPT? The scenario of the last few days suggests that Google, as powerful as it is, is very wary of what is happening at OpenAI and Microsoft. After announcing Bard, its competitor to ChatGPT, on February 6, Google used a Paris press conference on February 8 to show off its artificial intelligence for the first time. However, all indications suggest that Google is reacting in a hurry, without any real will to change anything to its search engine for the moment.

We are at Google France, which has clearly planned a real announcement today. The foreign press is there, and the room is larger than usual. Live-tweet to follow here. #Bard

– Numerama (@Numerama) February 8, 2023

Was the Bard announcement planned?

Was Google planning to announce Bard on February 8, or is it reacting to announcements from Microsoft and OpenAI, which just integrated ChatGPT into Bing and Edge? Before attending the press conference, there was some doubt. Google had invited French journalists to its conference dedicated to “artificial intelligence” on January 9, which could lead one to believe that its announcement had been planned for a long time.

After attending the conference, it seems clear that Bard was not on the agenda of the event (which was mostly dedicated to Lens, Maps and Arts&Culture). The chatbot seems to have been added at the last moment, only to give material to those who wonder about Google’s strategy. The drop in Alphabet’s share price (-7%) at the opening of Wall Street confirms our impression: Google has not fooled anyone.

Google stock is suffering from Microsoft’s announcements and Bard’s non-announcement.

Google wants to save the classic Internet

At a time when Microsoft says it wants to break the Internet with its new Bing, which it thinks will revolutionize the way the Web works, Google is much more cautious. The very quick demonstrations of Bard made on February 9 show a conversational agent integrated into its search engine, but which for the moment is content to synthesize information. it can also be used to search for “Which car to buy for a family”, “What is the best route to get to such and such a place”. Bard accesses website content and offers an informative synthesis, but seems less oriented towards creation than ChatGPT. Google imagines it integrated at the top of the search results, so not always on the screen, while Microsoft wants to leave its AI on the side all the time.

The most intriguing thing about Bard is Google’s pitch, which seems far less playful than many commentators. When you hear Google representatives talk about their generative AI, it sounds like they are presenting one technology brick in the middle of many. There doesn’t seem to be any particular excitement about Bard, even though some people imagine it will completely revolutionize the Internet. Google’s whole approach is to move forward cautiously, without a release date, supposedly to build a reliable system with as little bias as possible, while respecting several ethical principles. Google’s speech seems to be opposed to Microsoft’s, which wants to provoke a revolution.

How to explain this difference? Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s boss, summed it up well in an interview with The Verge: for him, Microsoft has nothing to lose, while Google risks seeing its business model collapse. This difference was well felt during a question and answer session between the journalists present in the room and the Google representatives.

To hear them tell it, Google seems to want to protect the current Internet ecosystem, does not want to leave the monopoly of information to an AI that can say stupid things (they encourage people to keep clicking on sites to multiply the sources of information) and does not intend to launch Bard without discussions with the big groups, such as the media, which could suffer from this new competition. Nothing to do with Microsoft, which believes more than ever in a revolution, even if it could kill many sites dependent on search engines’ audience as soon as it is launched.

The AI revolution is more for tomorrow than for today

For Google, the success of the new Bing could be dangerous. If the world starts using conversational agents as a search engine, then its entire business model, based on ads on its search engine and sites, could lose value. Google is not opposed to putting advertising in Bard, but says it’s still too early to tell. Since Bard will only arrive in a few “weeks” and its overall operation does not seem to be decided.

Given the tone used by Google on February 8, everything suggests that the AI revolution will not be immediate (it could have been if Google and Microsoft launched globally at the same time). On their revolutionary road, Microsoft and OpenAI might encounter a major obstacle: Google. The web giant is smart enough to prepare for this transition, just in case, but the best case scenario for it is not one where the ChatGPT model wins.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *