- Google’s generative AI chatbot, Bard, is now open to US and UK users as the AI wars move at breakneck speed
- The Big Tech giant, keen to avoid another AI-related stock price fall, stressed a ‘slowly, slowly’ approach
- Alphabet’s stock price rose over 3% at the news despite users branding the chatbot as dull compared to Bing and ChatGPT
We have good news for those eagerly awaiting Google’s bite of the AI cherry: Google Bard is now available to US and UK citizens in an open beta. Intended as a rival to OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing Chat, the generative AI model is Google’s stake in the ground for the AI wars.
Google’s had a rocky AI journey after being caught out by the runaway success of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot, launched in November last year. So far we’ve seen an internal ‘code red’ memo, a lackluster launch and promises of generative AI tools without any firm deadlines.
This all begs the question: is Google really prepared to be a leader in this field? It may be a forefather of today’s AI technology, but it’s not at the front of the pack in exciting users and Wall Street. Let’s get into the details.
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What’s the latest with Google Bard?
Google has launched its Bard beta in the US and UK and will expand to new countries and languages soon. Based on a lightweight version of Google’s LaMDA, the generative AI model is intended to complement Google’s search function with a ‘Google it’ button as part of the program.
A unique factor of the Bard product is its ability to generate several ‘draft’ answers to questions or tasks that users can choose from. ChatGPT, in comparison, just provides one answer.
Google now says it’s time for external users testing the product to give feedback and improve the model. “I’m excited to see how Bard sparks more creativity and curiosity in the people who use it,” CEO Sundar Pichai said in an internal memo.
While Google is initially rolling out Bard to 10,000 “trusted testers from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives,” the average Joe can now sign up for the waitlist. It’s already had 80,000 internal testers use the Bard model to keep up with OpenAI and Microsoft in the AI wars.
Google Bard’s launch comes off the back of its announcement that generative AI will be coming to its suite of apps including Google Docs, Sheets and Chat to make working life more productive. There wasn’t a release date mentioned, but Alphabet stock still rose 3.14% at the news.
Wall Street’s reaction
There was a muted reaction from testing users, with some labeling the Bard chatbot as bland compared to other chatbots. That’s likely by design to avoid the unhinged conversations Microsoft’s Bing chatbot had with some users.
Investors seemed to like dull, too. Google stock rose 3.1% on Tuesday following the Bard waitlist announcement. The small gain is an endorsement from investors that Google is on the right track in the AI war.
Google’s AI strategy: in control or panicking?
There’s an interesting underlying message with everything Google says in the beta launch: it repeatedly stresses that the product isn’t perfect. “While LLMs are an exciting technology, they’re not without their faults,” the announcement blog post reads.
Pichai also mentioned in his memo, “As more people start to use Bard and test its capabilities, they’ll surprise us. Things will go wrong.”
Google can’t be blamed for this move: a mistake in the product demo during Bard’s launch caused consternation from investors, wiping off $100bn from the stock. Despite the Bing chatbot having similar issues, the hefty error put Microsoft’s launch head and shoulders above Google.
Every Big Tech company putting their hat into the AI ring has reputation loss at stake. But Google has further to fall: it dominates around 90% of all global search engine traffic.
Strong leadership is needed to weather the storm, but rumors are now swirling around Pichai’s tenure coming to a premature end over the blunders made so far. With founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin returning to the helm at the start of the year, perhaps there’s fire to the smoke.
Our consensus: Google is trying to claw back lost face, but all signs point to the tech titan still running around like a headless chicken. Investors are likely watching Google’s every move in this field closely to spot any headwinds of the tech world order changing.
The broader AI landscape
AI developments have dominated the headlines as Big Tech races to beat the competition, with a dizzying amount of new features and programs announced by global tech companies.
Adobe broke the news this week at its Adobe Summit that its new generative AI image suite, Adobe Firefly, will be coming to its apps like Photoshop and Illustrator soon – and the waitlist to try it out is already open.
Adobe is partnering with chip manufacturer Nvidia, who’s also moving into the AI sphere with its Picasso model. Adobe stock rose 3.1% after the announcement.
In China, Baidu launched its Ernie chatbot last week after CEO Robin Li bluntly stated they were unveiling the tool early because the market was moving ahead. Baidu stock dipped as much as 10% after the pre-recorded demo failed to impress but rallied up 14.3% the following day once news of 30,000 Chinese companies signing up for the service emerged.
Not to mention OpenAI launched GPT-4, a new and improved version of ChatGPT, soon after Google just announced its Bard model was coming. Microsoft’s stock price has risen 14% since the start of 2023 when it announced its $10bn investment in OpenAI.
The bottom line
Google must feel like it’s walking along a tightrope right now. It has to keep moving because its search engine dominance is at stake, but one wrong step and the stock will be sent into freefall.
Wall Street has high expectations, too. That’s why the stock gains haven’t been significant: while it’s running a few weeks behind Microsoft and OpenAI, as the incumbent search engine crown-holder and with so much AI experience under its belt, Google’s chatbot offering could be the greatest yet.
One thing’s for sure: the AI wars are heating up, with investment opportunities ripe for the taking.
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