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Google reminds everyone it too can offer an AI code-suggestion bot

Replit after me

Google has tapped up IDE developer Replit to bake the startup's AI-powered code-suggestion tools into its cloud platform so that it can attempt to challenge Microsoft's GitHub Copilot.

We've had machine-learning-driven programming tools for years now, but none have attracted as much attention as GitHub Copilot, mainly due to Redmond's PR steamroller lately crashing through the IT world.

Powered by OpenAI's Codex language models, Copilot makes suggestions as programmers type in their comments and functions, offering code like a super-autocomplete. Sometimes, it even works as expected.

Now Google wants in on the action. Under its deal with Replit, the search giant will give the startup access to Mountain View's huge computational resources and its custom-built AI models. In return, the Chocolate Factory will host and offer Replit's code-editing software from Google Cloud. 

Specifically, we're told by the duo, "Replit developers will get access to Google Cloud infrastructure, services, and foundation models via Ghostwriter, Replit's software development AI, while Google Cloud and Workspace developers will get access to Replit's collaborative code editing platform."

(It's an AI cloud deal that reminds us of the $120 million chip design agreement Google allegedly sought with Synopsys.)

"Generative AI can bring significant new capabilities to businesses and developers, including the ability to easily, safely, and scalably create new software applications and online experiences with little or no coding experience," June Yang, veep of cloud AI and industry solutions at Google Cloud, said today.

"Google Cloud infrastructure and foundation models in Vertex AI will power Replit's widely-adopted platform, delivering more performance and scalability to millions of developers around the world," she added. 

Replit's Ghostwriter code generator is directly integrated into the biz's browser-based online IDE. We're told it can autocomplete code, and respond to queries in natural language. CEO Amjad Masad argued this helps programmers be more productive, and can help folks fix bugs and collaborate with coworkers more easily. 

"Our partnership with Google Cloud on infrastructure and AI is a clear step toward our mission of bringing the next billion software creators online. AI has changed software development forever," he said. "The seamless idea-to-deployed software experience that Replit provides developers will continue to set a new bar for software creation."

Replit says it supports over 20 million developers, and claims its Ghostwriter bot helps generate more than 30 per cent of code for its users. Meanwhile, Microsoft is planning to upgrade its GitHub Copilot model to GPT-4. 

"Our R&D team at GitHub Next has been working to move past the editor and evolve GitHub Copilot into a readily accessible AI assistant throughout the entire development lifecycle," Thomas Dohmke, CEO of GitHub, previously said.

AI pair-programming tools have improved over time, and Google clearly feels it's onto something big. As well as code completion, they can now generate code given instructions in natural language text. It's not perfect, however, and even though it can help those with less programming experience write code, devs will still need to have enough technical knowledge to understand if its outputs are correct or not. ®

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