Today at an event in San Francisco, the company unveiled a new family of cloud computing services that allow any developer or business to use the machine learning technologies that power some of Googleâ€™s most powerful services. Inside Google, these artificial intelligence systems deftly identify images inside apps like Google Photos; recognize commands spoken into Android Phones; and significantly improve the Google Internet search engine. Now others will be able to use them for many of the same purposes. During a lengthy keynote speech meant to highlight the companyâ€™s entire suite of cloud servicesâ€”services it sees as an enormously important part of its futureâ€”Google new application programming interfaces (APIs) for identifying images, recognizing speech, and translating from one language to another, among other services.
Today’s move is part of an enormous effort by Google to grab a bigger foothold in the all-important cloud computing market.
The move is part of a widespread shift in the tech industry towards deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence that allows machines to learn tasks by analyzing vast amounts of digital data. Companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter have also made huge strides in the field, and many are openly sharing their technologies with others. This past fall, Google open sourced TensorFlow, the software engine that drives its deep neural networks. Microsoft has offered cloud services based on similar technologies. And now Google has done much the same. â€œThis is the next transformation,â€ said Google chairman Eric Schmidt said on stage at todayâ€™s event.
A Piece of the Cloud
But todayâ€™s move is also part of an enormous effort by the Google braintrust to grab a bigger foothold in the all-important cloud computing market. According to tech research firm Forrester, cloud computing will be a $191 billion market by 2020, but at the moment, Amazon is well out ahead of Google and all other players, including Microsoft and IBM. Amazon pulls in about $9.6 billion a year in cloud revenue, while Morgan Stanley estimates that Googleâ€™s take is closer to $500 million. But Google has made cloud computing a priority, hiring former VMware CEO Diane Greene to run its cloud group and loudly proclaiming that the cloud could one day be its biggest moneymaker.
â€œIt has become clear that the public cloud is the way of the future,â€ top Google engineer Urs HÃ¶lzle told WIRED in the spring of 2014. â€œOne day, this could be bigger than ads. Certainly, in terms of market potential, it is.â€
HÃ¶lzle is a former University of California Santa Barbara professor who joined Google in 1999 as employee number eight. In the years since, he has overseen the creation of what is likely the worldâ€™s largest private computer network, the global network of data centers and machines that underpins the Googleâ€™s myriad online services. In recent years, the company has invited other businesses to build and operate their own software and services atop this vast computer network, though not as quickly or aggressively as Amazon has.
Nevertheless, HÃ¶lzle predicts Googleâ€™s cloud revenues could exceed Googleâ€™s billions in ad revenue by 2020â€”quite a statement, considering Google is the worldâ€™s largest advertising company.
Still, Googleâ€™s technological expertise is undenied. Its machine learning technology, for example is well out ahead of the market. By making that a part of its cloud offering, Google is signaling just how seriously it takes the cloud. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, chairman Eric Schimidt, Diane Green, Urs HÃ¶lzle, and uber-engineer Jeff Dean all appeared at todayâ€™s event. The question is whether these big names can successfully sell Googleâ€™s tech to the worldâ€™s big businesses via this thing called the cloud.
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