Following up on CEO Satya Nadella’s big talk about artificial intelligence, Microsoft today announced the creation of the AI and Research Group, gathering more than 5,000 computer scientists and engineers.
The group will include the engineering teams for the Cortana personal assistant and Bing search engine. To lead the group, Microsoft has chosen 20-year company veteran Harry Shum, whose previous experience includes Bing and Microsoft Research.
The AI and Research Group will work on products, but it will also conduct basic research.
AI was a major point in Nadella’s keynote this week at Microsoft Ignite, the company’s annual IT conference. He said he wanted his company to “democratize” AI, citing examples such as Cortana, the digital personal assistant.
AI, machine learning, and deep learning are all also becoming competitive factors in the cloud. Microsoft’s announcement today talks about building “the world’s most powerful AI supercomputer with Azure” and making it available as a service.
That sounds a lot like what IBM has been doing with Watson, the AI engine that it’s offering up as a service. This week, IBM expanded that concept with Project DataWorks, combining Watson with other services such as the IBM Data Science Experience. The combination creates a general-purpose, decision-making engine that’s available on the Bluemix cloud platform.
Google has machine learning aspirations too, of course. Today, the company announced ambitious plans to attract enterprise customers to Google Cloud Platform. Part of the strategy involves beefing up machine-learning services, which tap an open source library called Tensorflow.