Google boss Sundar Pichai has said that Google is starting to focus on an “AI-first world” as tools like AlphaGo prove the potential of artificial intelligence to bring new capabilities to the firm's services.
Pichai believes that the success of AlphaGo in beating the world’s best Go players proves that AI is on the cusp of huge achievements.
“As many of you saw last month, DeepMind's AlphaGo has been making great strides. It was a privilege to play legendary Go player Lee Sedol in such an important milestone for AI,” he said.
“This is another step towards creating AI that could help us with everything from our daily tasks to potentially bigger challenges like climate change and cancer diagnosis.”
Pichai explained that Google and the wider tech world will move from the current focus on mobile as the key technology to how AI can be used to improve services.
“I think we will evolve in computing from a mobile-first to an AI-first world," he said.
Pichai’s comments came during an earnings call to discuss Google parent company Alphabet’s latest financial results, which showed a strong rise in revenue from $17.26bn in Q1 2015 to $20.26bn in Q1 2016.
This led to profits of $4.2bn, up from $3.5bn in the same period last year. Google contributed to all of these earnings.
Conversely, Alphabet’s Other Bets business saw operating losses widen notably, from $633m to $802m. This was despite revenue more than doubling from $80m in Q1 2015 to $166m in the latest period.
Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat explained that the revenue from Other Bets came primarily from the firm's Nest, Verily and Fiber divisions, which means that other areas, like Loon, are responsible for the huge losses.
"We continue to invest across these opportunities, doing so in a disciplined way," Porat added.
Whether such large, and widening, losses in the Other Bets business can be sustained remains to be seen. Alphabet's share price fell six per cent after the results, and investors could start to lose patience.
But Alphabet may feel that it has no choice but to pursue the strategy for a while yet, given the speed of change and innovation among tech giants.
And with $65bn in the bank, the company can probably take the hit without affecting day-to-day operations.
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