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Baidu—often described as the Google of China due to its extensive suite of internet services that include an office suite, web browser, map suite, and cloud storage—has taken a significant step forward in its AI ambitions with the announcement of Ernie 4.0.
At first glance, this new iteration appears to restore Baidu's tech cred after the previous version, Ernie 3.5, left much to be desired.
During a Monday presentation at Baidu World 2023, Baidu founder Robin Li showcased Ernie 4.0's refined ability to tackle complex queries and intricate puzzles in real time. The demonstration was geared toward placing Ernie 4.0 firmly alongside notable Western models like OpenAI's GPT-4.
“This is our most powerful model to date, featuring comprehensive upgrades to its core abilities, understanding, generation, reasoning, and memory,” Li told the audience. “It surpasses the online version of Ernie bot and stands on par with GPT-4 in terms of overall performance.”
Baidu's vision goes beyond just an LLM upgrade—it plans to infuse its entire suite of services with the AI capabilities in Ernie 4.0, much akin to Google's strategy of integrating AI across its products. This move is expected to enhance services like search, maps, file-sharing, work collaboration, and data analytics, providing a more intelligent and seamless user experience.
The model is right now in beta; a Baidu account is needed, and it requires a Chinese phone number in order to register.
Clash of the titans
Meanwhile, another Chinese tech firm, Alibaba, is also carving its niche in the AI domain. Unlike Baidu, Alibaba has opted for a more open approach by releasing two open-source models, Qwen-7B and Qwen-7B-Chat, targeting the enterprise sector.
“We are at a technological watershed moment driven by generative AI and cloud computing, and businesses across all sectors have started to embrace intelligence transformation to stay ahead of the game,” said Daniel Zhang, Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group and CEO of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence in a press release.
Alibaba is another Chinese behemoth that started as an ecommerce site similar to Amazon and expanded into areas like cloud computing, entertainment, digital media, and electronic payments.
On the Western front, the narrative is equally riveting as Google and Microsoft battle for AI supremacy in the U.S. The quest for AI dominance is a narrative resonating on both sides of the globe, even though the playing fields are somewhat isolated due to geopolitical reasons.
Microsoft has been backing OpenAI, propelling its AI advancements on GPT-4, which is now powering Windows 11’s new AI features, while Google is not far behind with its ambitious Gemini project. Like Baidu, Google is keen on integrating AI across its suite of services such as Google Search, Google Docs, Google Photos, Google Maps, and even on its phones.
With every stride these tech behemoths make, whether in the East or West, the global map of AI integration continues to evolve.