Race for AI isn’t zero-sum, says Amazon cloud boss

FILE - The Amazon logo is seen in Douai, northern France, Thursday, April 16, 2020. Amazon said Wednesday, April 3, 2024, it's cutting hundreds of jobs in its cloud computing unit AWS as part of a strategic shift. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

San Francisco: As Google races with Microsoft and OpenAI to create world-changing generative artificial intelligence (AI), some critics see Amazon as lagging behind.

“I respectfully disagree” with that viewpoint, said Adam Selipsky, Amazon’s cloud chief, in an interview with AFP.

Tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Meta have made headlines talking about their own foundational models, or those of their close partners, that are key to AI and its ability to produce written works, images, videos or even computer code from simple user prompts.

But “there is simply not going to be one model to rule them all,” argued Selipsky.

AWS, Amazon’s industry-leading cloud branch, is already seeing customers “needing multiple models for multiple different use cases”, he explained.

He cited the capabilities of various AI models available on the AWS Bedrock platform, such as Meta’s Llama and Claude from Anthropic, as well as some from Mistral in France and Amazon’s own Titan brand.

Generative AI is regarded in Silicon Valley as poised to revolutionise the way people get jobs done.

And cloud computing companies, which have massive computing power, troves of data and AI expertise, now host generative AI models. They are in a prime position to capitalise on the new technology – but they have a lot to lose if they don’t cough up the latest innovations.

A pioneer of eCommerce, Amazon also dominates the cloud. AWS had 31% of the cloud computing market at the end of 2023, according to Stocklytics.

But rivals Microsoft and Google are gaining ground with their cloud businesses, with 24% and 11% market share, respectively.

Thanks to a US$13bil investment in ChatGPT-maker OpenAI, Microsoft is “in the driver’s seat” of an ongoing cloud revolution, according to Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.

Microsoft and Google compete with their in-house, AI-infused digital assistants to help with creating content – emails, presentations, ads – and applications (especially chatbots).

AWS is less known to the public and its digital assistant Alexa is not yet as conversational as ChatGPT.

But Amazon has been in the AI business for more than 25 years, said Selipsky. “If you go back to personalisation on the retail website in 1998 – we called it personalisation, but it was AI.”

The Seattle firm has long had thousands of people working on the technology and has pivoted some of them to the new frontier of generative AI, Selipsky said.

“We’ve moved rapidly on new generations of our (AI) chips like Trainium, and building Amazon Bedrock, and getting it adopted quickly and coming out with exciting applications on top of the models, like Amazon Q”, an AI assistant, he said.

Selipsky, who took command of AWS in 2021, replacing Andy Jassy, who stepped into the chief executive role vacated by founder Jeff Bezos, was confident Amazon would remain a leader in cloud computing.

As proof, he points to AWS customers and partners, including Nvidia.

The high-profile chipmaker recently announced it is building a “supercomputer” on AWS using Nvidia’s own high-performing processors, the ultrasophisticated and coveted GPUs.

Most notably, Amazon has invested US$4bil in Anthropic, an OpenAI rival that is also backed by Google. The start-up will use AWS and its Trainium chips to build AI models and help “improve our technology”, said Selipsky. — AFP

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