After years of hesitation, Google is preparing its competitor software for the currently popular text machine ChatGPT for public use. Google users should be able to interact "very soon" with such language systems, among other things as a supplement to web searches, said CEO Sundar Pichai on Thursday.
The Internet giant has long been developing software based on artificial intelligence that can talk to people. As early as spring 2018, Google demonstrated a program that called restaurants to make a reservation - and was not recognized as a computer. Criticism was immediately raised that such technology could be misused. Google has had its voice software used internally by employees for the past few years, but shied away from a broad market launch due to the risks.
Strategically under pressure from ChatGPT?
But at the end of last year, the developer company OpenAI made its ChatGPT software public, which can formulate texts in seconds that could also have been written by a human being. The technology caused a stir, but also raised concerns: after all, you can use it to try to cheat at school or university, or to create large-scale misinformation for distribution on the Internet.
ChatGPT also sometimes gives wrong answers, but this is not recognizable for users. Google will be ambitious but responsible when releasing its voice software, Pichai assured.
The Internet group was seen strategically under pressure from ChatGPT. Archrival Microsoft has invested billions in OpenAI and will integrate the start-up's software into its cloud platform. According to media reports, Microsoft's search engine Bing should also be linked to it. Microsoft lags far behind Google in the web search business, despite years of effort.
In the past quarter, Google felt the slack in the online advertising market. The advertising business for the search engine and video platform YouTube fell by around 3.6 percent year-on-year to $59 billion. However, gains in cloud services and successful foreign exchange deals helped close the gap.
Alphabet earnings down a good third
The parent company Alphabet was able to show a one percent increase in sales to a good 76 billion dollars (69.65 billion euros). However, analysts had expected around 500 million dollars more. The stock lost almost 5 percent in after-hours trading on Thursday. Bottom line, Alphabet's earnings fell by a good third year-over-year to $13.6 billion.
The business of the video platform YouTube also fell short of the analysts' expectations, with revenues falling by around eight percent to just under eight billion dollars. Meanwhile, the cloud business grew from a good 5.5 to 7.3 billion dollars. However, it is operationally in the red at $480 million. That was at least an improvement after a minus of 890 million a year earlier.
The number of employees rose within twelve months from 156,600 to a good 190,000. The group recently announced that around 12,000 jobs would be cut because it had grown too quickly for the business during the pandemic boom. Severance payments and other related measures are expected to cost $1.9 billion to $2.3 billion in the current quarter.
Some investors are also questioning the high costs for potential future projects such as self-driving cars from subsidiary Waymo, healthcare technology or delivery drones. These areas posted an operating loss of $1.6 billion on $226 million in sales last quarter.