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Google crams more AI into search as Apple, Samsung sniff around Bing

Mountain View may have nothing to fear, though – Microsoft's browser is still the underdog

Google is hurrying to add AI to its search platform following Microsoft's debut of OpenAI tech in Bing – a major motivator being that Samsung and Apple might be looking to switch lucrative mobile search deals.

The Chocolate Factory is working to build an all-new search engine with integrated AI goodness, as well as infusing the technology into its existing search engine, under a project codenamed Magi.

The New York Times claims the impetus for this move is that Google learned that smartphone maker Samsung was considering ditching Google's technology in favor of Bing as the default search engine on its devices.

Samsung is still one of the biggest global smartphone manufacturers, and the current search contract is said to be worth an estimated $3 billion in annual revenue for Google. Worse still, a similar contract with Apple is apparently due for renewal this year, and this is worth an extra $20 billion.

So what is causing all this upset? Microsoft announced in February that it had added AI chatbot-powered search features into both its Bing search engine and its Edge browser, bringing them to mobile apps a few weeks later. These features were provided by OpenAI and its ChatGPT chatbot.

Microsoft has invested billions of dollars into OpenAI over the past several years, and secured exclusive rights to its GPT-3 large language model (LLM) technology in 2020. The version used in Bing is its more powerful successor, GPT-4, plus the ChatGPT chatbot that is built on top.

Thanks to this, interest in Bing has grown exponentially, while previously it languished as the underdog to Google's search. However, figures from Statcounter show Bing as still bumping along at less than 3 percent of global searches as of March 2023, compared with Google's 93 percent.

Microsoft's OpenAI-powered Bing was also given a less than enthusiastic verdict by The Register when our reviewer took it for a spin last month, concluding that it will "need to get a lot better" if it is to live up to Microsoft's dream of reinventing search.

So it appears that Google may not have a great deal to fear, although the search and ad giant was evasive when we asked it for confirmation of the claims in The New York Times story.

"We've been bringing AI to Google Search for years to not only dramatically improve the quality of our results, but also introduce entirely new ways to search, such as Lens and multisearch," a Google spokesperson told us, adding: "Not every brainstorm deck or product idea leads to a launch, but as we've said before, we're excited about bringing new AI-powered features to Search, and will share more details soon." ®

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