is going on the offensive in artificial intelligence in response to
CEO Sundar Pichai said the company will make its own chatbot available to users as a complement to Google search—he has to hope users don’t see it as a replacement.
“Very soon, people will be able to interact directly with our newest, most powerful language models as a companion to Search in experimental and innovative ways,” Pichai told analysts in
‘s fourth-quarter earnings call on Thursday.
(ticker: GOOGL) launching such a search tool would be an answer to the popularity of ChatGPT, the chatbot developed by
(MSFT)-backed OpenAI which has proved wildly popular and is reportedly set to be integrated with
‘s Bing search engine.
Alphabet has its own AI technology that could be used for a chatbot, called LaMDA—a snappier name for Language Model for Dialogue Applications.
However, using AI-powered tools to give answers to search queries could hurt Alphabet’s primary revenue engine of search-related advertising.
“In our view, [Alphabet] management didn’t totally address the potential risk for potential AI language applications to cannibalize search’s usage and/or monetization—a key overhang that seems likely to remain persistent,” analysts at RBC Capital Markets, led by Brad Erickson, wrote in a research note after Thursday’s earnings report.
Alphabet shares were down more than 4% in premarket trading Friday but that had more to do with the slowdown in advertising spending revealed in its earnings report.
Google’s traditional search isn’t set to be replaced overnight. ChatGPT and other AI-powered chatbots can give convincing answers to specific questions but still can’t be relied on for factual queries. It also costs much more in computing power to generate an answer from a tool like ChatGPT than to perform a Google search.
However, Google’s owner now faces one of the most serious threats to its dominance in the search-engine market in years and its response will go a long way toward dictating its long-term future.
Write to Adam Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org