What’s next for Big Tech in the AI race

Tech companies are leaning further into artificial intelligence (AI) advancements as they race to stay on the cutting edge.

OpenAI and Google, in back-to-back announcements last week, unveiled new features focused on how generative AI can be used in daily life. At the same time, announcements from other companies, including Meta and Microsoft, and expected announcements next month from Apple, highlight how the industry is leaning into AI.

The updates released by OpenAI and Google both largely focused on new use cases of their respective generative AI chatbots, ChatGPT and Gemini. Rather than announcing a new, more advanced AI system, both companies showcased updates to their chatbots and how they could be used, as well as tweaks to more advanced audio and visual features.

“Big tech is flexing its muscles,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said. “2023 was exploratory. 2024 is AI going to prime time,” he added.

With the new features and expanded access to ChatGPT, the website is on track to hit a new record of monthly traffic — beating its previous high in May of last year before traffic dipped, according to data from Similarweb.

For the first 17 days of May, traffic to ChatGPT averaged 17.8 million visits. Even if traffic were to slow in the last weeks of the month, a total of more than 2 billion visits seems likely, according to a Similarweb blog post breaking down the data.

Still, visits to Google far outrank traffic to ChatGPT’s website. In the last three months, total visits to ChatGPT reached 1.8 billion, versus Google’s 83.5 billion in the same time span, according to Similarweb’s data.

ChatGPT, though, is also backed by a veteran tech industry giant: Microsoft. The Washington-based tech giant invested billions of dollars into OpenAI and has incorporated OpenAI’s generative AI tool into its products, including Bing search.

During an announcement Monday, Microsoft revealed Copilot+, a new category of personal computers that will have AI features already built in.

“We have completely reimagined the entirety of the PC — from silicon to the operating system, the application layer to the cloud — with AI at the center, marking the most significant change to the Window platform in decades,” Microsoft’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer said in a blog post.

In coming weeks, the Copilot+ PCs will give users access to latest models of AI, including the GPT-4o model released by OpenAI, Microsoft said. GPT-4o was showcased at OpenAI’s demo last week, where the company highlighted its advancements with audio and visual interactions.

“I think Microsoft and [CEO Satya Nadella] are way ahead in this AI arms race. Not just from Microsoft, what they’re doing, but also the OpenAI partnership,” Ives said.

But Ives said Google is “narrowing the gap.”

Google’s announcement at the developer conference last week focused on ways the company is aiming to incorporate more AI tools into its existing products, mainly its web search engine. The tech giant plans to roll out more uses of its Gemini AI into search, including through “AI Oversights” that will provide users with more thorough answers to queries. Updates also include the ability to ask queries to Gemini through videos.

Google and OpenAI are approaching generative AI from “different perspectives,” said Baruch Toledano, Similarweb vice president and GM of digital marketing solutions.

OpenAI appears to be heading toward a future of creating large language models that are more unique and specific, and allow other people to participate in their ecosystem by building on top of what they have created, he said, whereas Google “continues to bring a breadth of different experiences” and is building on its existing and well-known suite of services.

Google head of search Liz Reid described the updates to Gemini as a way Google is “reimagining search in the Gemini era.” The company also announced ways it plans to bring Gemini features into other Google services, including Gmail.

Other companies are also indicating a bigger push on AI.

Meta last week announced it was cutting its Workplace app to shift focus to AI and metaverse technologies.

Ives said Meta’s decision is a the “right strategic move” and will be significant toward monetization of advertising and additional growth.

Apple’s developer conference is scheduled for the week of June 10, and the company is expected to make announcements about how it is incorporating AI into products.

Bloomberg reported that Apple is reaching an agreement with OpenAI to use the company’s AI technology on the next version of the iPhone’s software, iOS 18. Spokespeople for Apple and OpenAI did not respond to requests for comment about the reported partnership.

Daron Acemoglu, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the updates by OpenAI, which kicked off the two weeks of company announcements on AI features, aren’t “game-changers yet in any shape or form.” But the incremental shifts forward put pressure on lawmakers to take action to develop regulation to address how AI will impact the workforce, democracy and a wide range of issues, he added.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) revealed his long-awaited bipartisan AI report with guidance for congressional committees about action to take on AI regulation. But the report did not advocate for or endorse any specific pieces of legislation, which angered many civil society groups and tech advocates who had been pushing for more aggressive action.

“I think from a competitive point of view, the U.S. Senate is in a much better place today than it was two years ago, three years ago. But the proof is in the pudding,” Acemoglu said.

“I think we are already falling behind there,” Acemoglu added.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.