Google ‘panic’: Samsung said to consider switching to Bing

Google’s long dominance in search is looking shaky, thanks to new developments in artificial intelligence like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing A.I.

Google went into a “panic” after Samsung, the world’s second-largest manufacturer of smartphones and a user of the company’s Android operating system, said it was considering offering Bing as the default search engine for users, according to a report published by the New York Times on Sunday.

The tech giant is scrambling to catch up to rivals Microsoft in the adoption of A.I. services. The threat to Google’s $162 billion business is reportedly pushing the company to revamp its search products, including creating an entirely new A.I.-powered search engine. 

Google’s drive to compete contrasts with comments from Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai in an interview, also aired on Sunday, in which he suggested that he wanted to avoid a rush to release new A.I. products for fear of how they might affect society.

In the interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, Alphabet CEO Pichai called artificial intelligence “the most profound technology humanity is working on,” adding that it was “more profound than fire or electricity or anything that we’ve done in the past.”

On 60 Minutes Sunday, Google executives demonstrated how to use its Bard A.I. to summarize the New Testament, and expand the famous six-word short story “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Yet the demonstration on Sunday also revealed A.I.’s continued struggle with “hallucinations”—that is, moments when the model generates details that don’t exist in reality. On CBS, Google senior vice president James Manyika asked Google’s A.I. to answer a question on inflation. The program recommended five books that, on further review by CBS, did not exist.

Pichai dismissed the issue of hallucinations. “No one in the field has yet solved the hallucinations problem. All models do have this as an issue,” he told CBS.

Google’s first demonstration of its Bard program in February also featured an incorrect answer to a question, leading shares to plunge and erasing $100 billion in market value. (Alphabet shares have since recovered.) 

Both Bing and OpenAI’s ChatGPT have also made up specific details, or delivered strange and unsettling responses after extended interactions.

Competition and safety

Google has been slower in embracing A.I. than its competitors. Microsoft is already integrating ChatGPT-like A.I. into its Bing search engine, and is continuing to roll out A.I. services across its many products.

On Sunday, Pichai suggested that Google was being cautious about rolling out more advanced A.I. to ensure that society could adapt to the new technology.

Some leaders in the tech sector, like Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Stability AI founder Emad Mostaque, have called for a six-month moratorium on training A.I. models more powerful than OpenAI’s GPT-4, released in mid-March. In response, Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, argued that such a pause would “simply benefit China.” 

Pichai told CBS that society needs “regulations to think about how to adapt” to A.I. He also suggested that he wanted to avoid a race, “where people working on [A.I.] across companies get caught up in who’s first—that we lose the potential pitfalls and downsides to it.”

Yet, internally, Google may be more worried about competition than its leaders might publicly admit. 

The company was spooked in March by the possibility that Samsung, the world’s second-largest smartphone brand and a user of Google’s Android operating system for its phones, was considering removing Google as its default search engine, according to the New York Times.

The news that Samsung might look elsewhere for search sent the company into a “panic,” according to internal documents seen by the New York Times, and employees were quickly tasked with putting together a pitch document for Samsung.

Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to internal documents, Google is developing an entirely new A.I. search engine, named “Magi,” that would offer a more tailored experience for users, reports the New York Times. The company is also planning to add A.I. services to its existing search engine, and reportedly expects to release these tools for public use next month.

Google did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment made outside U.S. business hours. The company told the New York Times that “not every brainstorm deck or product idea leads to a launch,” but that it was “excited about bringing new A.I.-powered features to search.”


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