Amazon vs. Google vs. Microsoft: Big tech firms gird for AI talent battle
Companies will pay handsomely for top scientists and engineers.
One of the AI leads for Amazon Alexa is leaving for Google. According to Quartz, based on a LinkedIn update, “Ashwin Ram, former senior manager and lead for Alexa AI at Amazon, is now technical director of AI for Google Cloud.”
Ram was reportedly behind the Alexa Prize, designed to further AI research and (presumably) help Amazon identify leading AI talent around the world. Amazon is trying to advance human-machine conversational interaction and the Alexa Prize is one vehicle for that.
As Quartz points points out, top AI talent is scarce “and companies are willing to pay millions to obtain new talent.” A case-in-point, Google paid more than $500 million in 2014 for UK-based AI startup DeepMind. And we’ll see millions more paid for AI startups, scientists and engineers as the talent war heats up.
Separately, Microsoft’s Cortana has a new boss. Javier Soltero, who formerly worked on Office will now be in charge of Cortana. He’ll report to Harry Shum, who’s the head of AI for the company.
Microsoft previously said that AI is being infused or integrated into most of its products, from Xbox to Office. Cortana is an important product for Microsoft, though its digital assistant faces challenges because it lacks native mobile and smart speaker distribution.
Microsoft announced some time ago, however, that Cortana had 150 million users across the desktop, Android, iOS and the Xbox. The numbers may be larger today. It recently became available on iPads.
Previously, Google said that its Assistant is on more than 400 million devices. Apple responded that it has 500 million active Siri users, while Amazon’s installed base of Alexa devotees is probably under 50 million.