Alphabet shares fall 7% following Google’s A.I. event

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the Google I/O keynote session at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California on May 7, 2019.
Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

Shares of Google’s parent Alphabet closed down more than 7% on Wednesday after the company held an event that promoted its new artificial intelligence chatbot called Bard, one day after competitor Microsoft held its own event to show off new AI technologies in its competing search engine, Bing.

Google officially announced Bard on Monday, confirming CNBC’s prior reporting, and the company said it will begin rolling out the technology in the coming weeks.

During the event Wednesday, which was livestreamed from Paris, Google executives discussed some of Bard’s capabilities. The presentation showed how Bard can be used to display the pros and cons of buying an electric car, for example, or to plan a trip in Northern California.

Bard is powered by the company’s large language model LaMDA, or Language Model for Dialogue Applications. Google will open up the conversation technology to “trusted testers” ahead of making it more widely available to the public, the company said in a blog post Monday.

The event also showed AI improvements to a number of other Google products, including Maps and Google Lens, which lets people search for images from their phone’s camera.

Shares of Alphabet slid during the event, suggesting that investors were hoping for more in light of growing competition from Microsoft.

Google’s event took place just one day after Microsoft hosted its own AI event at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft’s event centered around new AI-powered updates to the company’s Bing search engine and Edge browser. Bing, which is a distant second to Google in search, will now allow users get more conversational responses to questions. 

The Microsoft product updates were built on technology from ChatGPT-maker OpenAI, in which Microsoft has invested billions.

ChatGPT is AI software that generates text based on complex written prompts. The web-based tool went viral after its debut in November, prompting analysts and Google employees to ask whether the company was falling behind in AI, an area which has been a core focus for Google for several years. In response to ChatGPT’s popularity, Google declared an internal “code red” to accelerate development of Bard and other AI products, and the company’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, reportedly got involved again, years after stepping down from day-to-day work at the company.

Though Microsoft’s latest AI investments increase the pressure on Google search, some analysts say it will take time for Microsoft to see any significant gains.

“Search improvements will act as a tailwind to [advertising revenue long term], but it will take time to bring users back to Bing and they will need a crowbar to pry away advertisers from Google,” Jefferies’ analyst Brent Thill wrote in a Tuesday note. “We view these updates as the tip of the iceberg for MSFT’s AI capabilities, with the largest opportunity in enterprise use cases.”

Analysts at Evercore said there was “little incremental news” from Google’s event, which may have contributed to the falling stock price. The analysts said they believe this was an early and a “perhaps rushed” look at the AI Google has been working on for years.

Even so, the analysts said they believe Google’s AI technology is “at least as good” as its competition.

“Leveraging its years of AI investment (which drove a near doubling of CapEx in 2018) and unparalleled scale, this should help the company defend its market position in the long run,” they wrote in a Wednesday note.

CNBC’s Jennifer Elias and Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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