Microsoft offers cloud to Baidu, gets autonomous car in return

Self-driving project could be a smart move by Redmond

Yesterday, China's search engine giant Baidu named Microsoft as a partner on its new open-source autonomous driving platform, Apollo. Technology analysts say the partnership is a smart call by Redmond.

Baidu originally announced Apollo in April. It's got cloud services, software and reference hardware/vehicle platforms. It was built using "vast amounts" of "actual autonomous driving scene data" and the company expects the tech will be running on urban roads and highways by the end of 2020, according to a statement.

Other open-source autonomous vehicle platforms include projects such as Then there are of course the Waymos, the Ubers, and many, many more moving into the self-driving car battlefield.

A spokeswoman for Baidu told The Register that Apollo's main goal is to "grow China's auto industry". But "it is also an open platform contributing to the global autonomous driving industry". Baidu has set up subsidiaries in Singapore and the US for collaborating with its local partners, she said.

According to the press release, Baidu is partnering with "Microsoft Cloud". Both Baidu and Microsoft are keeping any further details on the collaboration under wraps.

The Baidu rep declined to provide details. A Microsoft spokesperson also declined to clarify whether "Microsoft Cloud" meant Azure, Dynamics 365, or Office 365 – and merely noted Microsoft's "excitement".

But Gartner analyst Martin Birkner in Munich, Germany, told The Reg: "For Microsoft, it's an obvious move."

Microsoft already partnered with car manufacturers such as Ford to power SYNC, an infotainment system running in about 5 million cars which uses "Windows Embedded Automotive", a Microsoft platform for creating "in-car experiences" for automobile manufacturers.

"We won't be building our own autonomous vehicle but we would like to enable autonomous vehicles and assisted driving as well," Microsoft's biz dev lead Peggy Johnson said at a Wall Street Journal-backed tech conference in June 2016.

In March, Microsoft also announced a patent licence agreement with Toyota around connected vehicles.

But honestly, when it comes to connected vehicles, "they don't really have a good stake there today," Birkner said. The partnership could be a way for Microsoft to expand its infotainment and cloud service offerings into a ripe industry.

"The connected car is nothing but a client," he said.

He added that in the future there will probably be only a few big players in the autonomous ecosystem arena, a bit like how there are only a few major mobile operating systems today. It's not clear yet if open source or proprietary autonomous driving platforms will dominate, but it's logical that at least one of the top two, three, or four platforms will be in China – so Apollo may be a good choice.

Canalys analyst Mo Jia in Shanghai, China, told The Reg that Baidu has very strong AI and deep-learning expertise, while Microsoft is "quite good at cloud computing" but isn't really leading the AI world right now.

Microsoft couldn't really be expected to partner with a company such as Google for its AI know-how, he said, as Google is a clear competitor. But Baidu just so happens to be a competitor to Google.

"An enemy of an enemy maybe is your friend," he added. ®

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022