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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

OpenAI's ambitious master plan to conquer rivals like Google in the AI race hinges on pure speed

OpenAI's ambitious master plan to conquer rivals like Google in the AI race hinges on pure speed

If you've ever wanted to use ChatGPT to plan your vacation or craft a response to a coworker, now's the time. OpenAI last week announced the launch of plugins, allowing ChatGPT to integrate with apps from Klarna, Expedia, and Slack, among others.

If you've ever wanted to use ChatGPT to plan your vacation or craft a response to a coworker, now's the time. OpenAI last week announced the launch of plugins, allowing ChatGPT to integrate with apps from Klarna, Expedia, and Slack, among others.

But more than a means to expand the dataset to be read by ChatGPT, this move by OpenAI shows how aggressive the company is in its ambition to grow and become the leader in the generative AI space.

The company is now laying the groundwork for everyone to use ChatGPT in their daily lives, whatever they want to do it with in work and play. And, importantly, OpenAI wants — or, perhaps needs — the other much faster than its competitors can.

Because while Google, Amazon, and just about everybody else is getting in on the generative AI gold rush, OpenAI is clearly banking that its speed is the advantage it needs in the fight for market share against those larger rivals.


Speed is key to OpenAI's approach


By now, everyone knows OpenAI, thanks to the smash almost-overnight success of ChatGPT. The chatbot kickstarted an avalanche of discussion around the future of work, AI ethics, and changing the dynamic of the tech workforce.

This wasn't always the case.

OpenAI was founded in 2015 by current CEO Sam Altman, Elon Musk, and others. Musk left the board in 2018 and has since been an outspoken critic of OpenAI. It began as a non-profit entity but controversially transformed into a for-profit one in 2019.

Over the past several years, OpenAI started quietly releasing AI tools and models, including DALL-E, which turns text prompts into images. The company's profile got much higher after last year's release of ChatGPT, which was so popular that it kicked off a huge investment across the industry in so-called generative AI.

OpenAI moved quickly to capitalize on ChatGPT's success: Within the last few months, it announced a blockbuster partnership with Microsoft to bring the GPT technology to the Bing search engine, followed by the launch of a paid "Pro" version of ChatGPT, and most recently the plugin store.

That pace has proven tough for companies like Google to keep up with, even as the industry chatter has largely tuned in to the idea that ChatGPT could eat away at the search engine market.

OpenAI's ambition is clear: it wants to be the first name in AI, and everyone else just has to follow.


The hype cycle at OpenAI serves a purpose.


OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has not shied away from hyping up his products. So it's no surprise the company moves more aggressively than many of its competitors. Its shipping cycles tend to be faster than most, and it makes quick business partnership decisions. This approach has some merit, as others now have to keep up with OpenAI instead of the other way around.

Google released its ChatGPT competitor Bard quickly — some might say too fast. But early users say its version lacks the robustness of ChatGPT. Other companies are just now coming out with their own language models, and even Musk himself wants to build an AI to challenge his former company.

Moving fast is OpenAI's strategy, and now that the basic structures of ChatGPT and the DALL-E text-to-image tool have been built, it can focus on improving it and making it more powerful. Much of the process to improve its AI models is to let it connect to more data sources than ever before.

Allowing brands like Instacart and Shopify to connect to ChatGPT lets OpenAI not only see how the language model works with real-time requests too recent to include in its training data but also brings the technology to the core of popular apps. OpenAI said it plans to bring plugins to more developers soon.

To be sure, success is far from guaranteed. The history of tech is riddled with first-movers who had the right idea but were then pushed out by larger or more innovative competitors.

But OpenAI isn't waiting around: it wants to move fast, and its ambition stretches beyond just improving ChatGPT and its other AI models. For now, that strategy seems to be working.

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