business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the Washington Post:

"Tech giant Amazon has been conspicuously absent from the mounting AI wars in Silicon Valley, despite its years-long development of voice assistant Alexa and investment in cloud computing and machine learning.

"But at a recent all-hands meeting for cloud computing employees, executives assured staffers that the company hasn't fallen behind.

"'We have a lot happening in the space,' Swami Sivasubramanian, Amazon’s vice president of database, analytics and machine learning, said at the March meeting, according to a recording obtained by the Washington Post. 'We have a lot coming, and I’m very excited to share some of our plans in the future'."

The story notes that "when generative AI exploded onto the scene with the launch of ChatGPT in November, it was the formerly nonprofit research group OpenAI that won laurels. Tech giants Google and Microsoft (the latter of which invested billions in OpenAI) scrambled to catch up, launching chatbot products Bard and Bing, respectively, not long after.  But Amazon was nowhere in the mix, despite operating a massive cloud computing business, having the most employees and a market valuation of more than a trillion dollars."

Here's how Sivasubramanian Amazon's position:

“If you look at our track record on how we innovated in machine learning, we really paved the way for adoption of machine learning among mainstream enterprises and customers.  We are excited to do the same in this space because this space is rapidly evolving, but we will do it in an Amazonian way. We will listen to customers and look at what areas they really need help and how to make them successful in this space."

I do think Amazon's Alexa-powered systems are well positioned to take advantage of the burgeoning AI segment, largely because Amazon should have a better sense of practical, actionable customer needs.  But the company already has conceded that this segment of its business has been losing money, and it will take further investment to make a splash in the generative AI biz.  So we'll see.