Baidu Set to Launch its Own Version of ChatGPT

An artist's representation of Chat GPT coming from a laptop.

Galeanu Mihai / Getty Images

Chinese technology company Baidu (BIDU) aims to meet a March 16 deadline for the in-house launch of its artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, “Ernie Bot,” as it seeks to catch up to the success of OpenAi’s ChatGPT.

Key Takeaways

  • Baidu will release AI chatbot rival to ChatGPT internally on Thursday, March 16.
  • Chinese regulators have asked tech companies not to release their bots to the public.
  • Semiconductor shortages have hampered the company’s efforts to meet the deadline.

‘Ernie Bot’ Gets In-House Only Release at Baidu

Ernie Bot will be available to view on live stream but will be limited to in-house operations in its early stages. Chinese regulators told tech companies not to offer ChatGPT services to the public “amid growing alarm in Beijing over the AI-powered chatbot’s uncensored replies to user queries," according to reports. More than 100 Chinese companies, however, have already committed to adding the Ernie app to their own services.

The Ernie Bot is based on Baidu's original language model Ernie, released in 2019. Ernie was developed on an open-source, machine-learning framework, PaddlePaddle, and its third version was launched in May 2020. The company currently holds a search market share of more than 72% in a country where Google (GOOG, GOOGL) was blocked from doing business.

Baidu Forced to Borrow Chips, U.S. Tech Firms Give Chase 

The semiconductors shortage has hampered Baidu's progress on Ernie Bot, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company was forced to borrow staff from other departments and its CEO also urged AI research teams across the company to sacrifice their most powerful NVIDIA (NVDA) computer chips, which were blocked by U.S. sanctions under the CHIPS Act, signed into law on Aug. 9, 2022.

U.S. tech giants have been involved in their own AI arms race after millions of users flooded ChatGPT in its first days. The service's popularity led to Microsoft investing $10 billion more into the platform’s creator.

Alphabet was forced to move forward with the launch of its own Bard chatbot, which turned into $100 billion PR disaster for the company. The stakes are high for Google after the company’s search dominance versus Bing and ChatGPT dropped almost three percentage points since the launch of the chatbot rival. Snapchat also announced the release of its own “My AI” chatbot in the last two weeks.

After scrambling to get the application ready for the March deadline, Baidu will be hoping for a smooth launch of its new service. However, there is a risk that the company could suffer the same fate as Google by rushing to catch up to ChatGPT. Baidu's stock slumped last Thursday on reports that the app was struggling to perform basic functions.

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