OpenAI competitors from China: Alibaba, Bytedance, Tencent, and others vie for a 'winner-take-all' AI market
- Microsoft's OpenAI has a strong lead in the US's AI boom, but competitors in China are emerging.
- Analysts say several Chinese companies could rival OpenAI including Alibaba, Bytedance and Tencent.
OpenAI faces tough competition in the US as Google, Amazon, and countless startups that have sprung up in the AI boom race to implement AI offerings. China is emerging as a serious contender with the country's largest tech companies developing their own large language models, the underlying technology that powers ChatGPT, and similar tools.
Tencent, Alibaba, Bytedance, Baidu, and SenseTime, were ranked as the top five AI contenders to OpenAI's ChatGPT according to Bernstein analyst.
"For investors looking to generate a financial return from the evolution of this technology, we'd argue that commercial success will require contenders to possess a variety of capabilities in addition to owning stacks of semiconductors and training large models," Robin Zhu, Bernstein senior analyst wrote.
Chinese companies' FOMO is showing as a range of internet and software providers cobble together offerings but analysts say the competition will narrow in the next year. However, these companies will have to work within the Chinese government's new regulations dictating what sort of content and messaging their AI engines are allowed to generate.
Here are the top five companies leading China's AI race:
Gaming and entertainment giant Tencent announced its ChatGPT-like tool HunyuanAide in February. But it will likely focus its AI efforts on gaming, and enterprise software tools, which could benefit the company's cloud offerings by driving demand fueled by increased functionality. The WeChat maker is also sitting on a trove of data from its large number of users to train models. Although its chat tool Hunyuan is pretty proficient in Chinese, the company has yet to release an updated model since it debuted.
In April, e-commerce behemoth Alibaba announced Tongyi Qianwen, its answer to ChatGPT. Tongyi Qianwen integrates across its enterprise tools including its workplace communication software DingTalk. Bernstein's analysts warn that Alibaba's AI tools could undercut its core business as a marketplace. For instance, Tongyi Qianwen could surface results for products that competitors sell for less, making customers more likely to shop elsewhere.
"The shopping intent that exists on Alibaba's various ecosystems provides an organic environment for the monetization of AI-generated ideas, though price comparisons will likely remain important for consumers." the analysts noted.
The TikTok parent is sitting on massive amounts of data from its users, short video user-generated content, and has a head start in being an early adopter of AI-based recommendation algorithms.
But Bytedance is less likely to compete for enterprise tools as its productivity suite Lark has struggled to gain traction.
Search engine and internet services company Baidu launched its conversational chatbot Ernie in March with mixed reviews. But the company's search functions and volume have both improved since it launched Ernie.
The company will also have to reconcile the high cost of investment to develop better AI with its plans to monetize these tools.
A key concern is that "strategies focused too much on tech innovation without providing a clear monetization pathway with the result being technology end up a cash sink in the long run,"Bernstein analysts wrote.
AI software company SenseTime recently launched a handful of products that directly compete with OpenAI offerings, including its SenseChat chatbot, an image generator, and developer tools adding to its product lineup that already included facial and image recognition technology.
The company has a strong computational edge over its competitors since it leverages a massive AI data center to train more models on larger parameters. This will allow more enterprise customers to develop and train customized models.
A downside is that SenseTime will have to do more work to implement such tools with end users and lacks the scalability of competitors like Tencent, Baidu, or Alibaba.
The competitive landscape for AI dominance in the US already has early, incumbent players who are likely to take the lion's share of the market. But AI's development in China is expected to play out a little differently.
"The eventual market is unlikely to display winner-take-all dynamics and will probably evolve in a more fragmented fashion," Bernstein analysts wrote.
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