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Microsoft and Google slug it out

Microsoft’s Bing search engine has been a distant second to Google for many years, and never looked like it would even dent the dominance of the market leader. But the company has seized on the opportunities of AI, and there are interesting things happening that might make it a much more important player.

Microsoft is using the attraction of its AI to encourage further takeup of its well-regarded Edge browser too. This week it previewed the next generation of AI-powered Bing and Edge which will move from ‘Limited Preview’ to ‘Open Preview’, eliminating the waiting list to try it out. The search engine will move from text-only search and chat to one that is “incredibly more visual with rich image/video answers and coming shortly, new multimodal support.” It will also “move from single use chat/search sessions to multi-session productivity experiences, with chat history and persistent chats within Edge.”

All this acknowledges that search with AI will become more complex, and that users are more likely to be referring back to their search conversations while they explore the recommendations. I’m intrigued by a suggestion that Microsoft Edge will soon have improved capabilities for summarising long documents, including PDFs and even websites.

If you’re interested in what’s happening, I’d recommend watching the videos on the announcement page here.

Matching what Microsoft is rolling out

Meanwhile, Google has announced Duet AI for Google Cloud – an AI-powered collaborator, which it hopes will match what Microsoft is rolling out. In summary, we’re going to be getting an AI assistant in all of Google’s productivity apps by the end of the year, including full email responses with auto-drafting in Gmail, help writing anything in Docs, and AI-generated artwork in Slides. This will be at our fingertips through “Sidekick”, a workplace sidebar that contextualises what we’re doing and gets help through the internet.

Google’s Bard AI will be allowing integration of third-party apps, in competition with both Bing and ChatGPT, and is removing the waiting list. It’s now powered by PaLM 2, a significantly more capable language model, and the company is working on an even more capable model. Bard will also start supporting visual inputs and outputs, not just text!

The Space Race of the 1960s proved that it’s competition that really drives innovation, not the necessities of war as had been previously accepted. I think we now have an ‘AI Race’ that may provide equally extraordinary advances.