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Microsoft scales up AI play to build on ChatGPT thrust

Published:

WASHINGTON: After

Microsoft

posted blowout earnings in Jan, CEO

Satya Nadela

said, “We’ve moved from talking about

AI

to applying AI at scale”.
Microsoft is speedily integrating AI across the tech stack: From cloud computing platform Azure to chatbot ‘Copilot’ to Microsoft 365 apps like Word and Excel. And Wall Street is rewarding it.
Get this: Since the launch of

OpenAI

‘s ChatGPT on Nov 30, 2022, Microsoft has added nearly $1.3 trillion to its market value-which is equivalent to Meta’s total market cap.

After chip maker Nvidia, Microsoft has been the biggest beneficiary of the AI-fuelled stock market rally. The Redmond-based behemoth recently unseated Apple as the world’s most-valued company, crossing the $3 trillion milestone. (see graphic)

Screenshot 2024-03-16 041801

Microsoft’s stock is rallying on the hope that the AI boom will translate into a surge in revenue and profit for its software business, riding on its over $10 billion investment in OpenAI. Will the company maintain this momentum? Analysts say Microsoft’s strategic partnership and investment in OpenAI means the tech major will keep its lead in the AI revolution.
“Our key partner in this is OpenAI. This is probably one of the more unique relationships in business and technology. They compete with us. There are times when we compete with them. Still, we’re working successfully together,” said a company executive. He likened the OpenAI arrangement to those with Intel and SAP. “Whether it’s an Intel partnership that really kicked off the PC revolution and kept us together for a long time. Whether it’s the engagement we have with our big OEMs. Even with SAP, which has many of the same attributes from a partnering and competition standpoint, we compete with SAP, we partner with SAP,” said the executive.

Senior Microsoft leadership stressed the company’s mission of ‘AI for all’ at a recent presentation for the media here. “It’s not just that we’re making these advancements… and that’s funnelling into our products, but we are creating platforms so that other people can build with those technologies as well,” said Microsoft VP Ashley Llorens, who is also an adviser to the US President on AI.
Microsoft’s ‘inclusive tech lab’ has developed ‘Seeing AI’, a camera app that describes the world around for the visually impaired. “As someone who’s blind myself, AI has transformed my life,” Microsoft Seeing AI founder & lead Saqib Shaikh said. “We’ve had the app available on iOS for a while. But bringing it to Android means that while we are chasing high-end capabilities and advanced technology, we also want to make sure that it’s available to the huge number of people around the world who could benefit,” he said.
“I would love that one day, I have an almost invisible wearable device that I can just put on in the morning and then have, a little friend on my shoulder, looking around, whispering in my ear… which understands us as humans, understands what’s around us and enables us all to do more and to level the playing field for everyone,” Shaikh added.
On AI regulation, Microsoft’s chief ‘Responsible AI’ officer Natasha Crampton said: “Regulations in the (AI) space need to focus on the outcomes that we need to achieve, the societal values that we need to uphold, and allow sufficient flexibility in how we achieve those goals- so focusing on the what and giving flexibility on the how.” The cloud segment, which includes Azure, generated 46% of Microsoft’s total operating income in 2023, up from about 27% in 2016. “More than half of Fortune 500 companies are using Azure AI,” John Montgomery, corporate VP, Azure AI, said.
India, meanwhile, will have its third ‘Microsoft Garage’ in Noida, which is slated to be operational by June. The Garage, a programme that promotes a culture of experimentation and innovation, is functional in Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
(The writer was in

Redmond

at the invitation of Microsoft)

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