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EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info | TechCrunch


The European Union has warned Microsoft that it could be fined up to 1% of its global annual turnover under the bloc’s online governance regime, the Digital Services Act (DSA), after the company failed to respond to a legally binding request for information (RFI) that focused on its generative AI tools. Back in March, the […]

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EXCLUSIVE: Microsoft's custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week


Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive VP of the Microsoft Cloud and AI group, directly compared Cobalt to AWS’s Graviton chips, which have been available to developers […]

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Microsoft and OpenAI launch $2M fund to counter election deepfakes | TechCrunch


Microsoft and OpenAI have announced a $2 million fund to combat the growing risks of AI and deepfakes being used to “deceive the voters and undermine democracy.” This year will see a record 2 billion people head to the polls in elections spanning some 50 countries, so there are concerns around the influence that AI […]

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Microsoft is launching its mobile game store in July | TechCrunch


Microsoft will launch its own mobile game store in July, the company announced at the Bloomberg Technology Summit on Thursday. Xbox president Sarah Bond shared that the company plans to bring its first-party portfolio, which includes titles like Candy Crush and Minecraft, to the mobile store at launch. Microsoft then plans to open up the […]

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Cloud revenue accelerates 21% to $76 billion for the latest earnings cycle | TechCrunch


If you were concerned about slowing cloud infrastructure growth for a time in 2023, you can finally relax: The cloud was back with a vengeance this quarter. The market as a whole was up a healthy $13.5 billion to $76 billion, up 21% over the first quarter in 2023, per Synergy Research.

That’s healthy growth by any measure.

If you’re wondering what’s driving the growth, you probably guessed that it’s related to generative AI and the copious amount of data required to build the underlying models. Whether it’s Microsoft’s close links to OpenAI, Google Cloud making a slew of AI announcements at its recent customer conference or Amazon’s infrastructure managing the data side of the equation, AI is driving lots of business for these vendors.

“There is a symbiotic relationship between the rapid advancement and adoption of AI and the scalable ‘Big 3’ cloud infrastructure providers,” said Rudina Seseri, founder and managing partner at Glasswing Ventures, a firm that invests heavily in AI startups. “AI actually makes the cloud providers more valuable. By creating more capabilities for computing through automation and augmentation within the enterprise, there is a corresponding increased demand for the underlying computational power provided by the Big 3 cloud infrastructure vendors, as evidenced by their immense growth in recent quarters.”

Seseri also sees the cloud vendors making it easier for startups to build on top of their infrastructure in the coming years. “For startups, many depend on the cloud providers, having built atop these immense platforms. I predict we will see immense investment in AI-optimized infrastructure by the major cloud platforms, as it is a key driver behind the sustained growth in cloud computing, which will make it easier to build AI platforms and products on the cloud,” she said.

And these companies are reaping the financial windfall for the newfound interest in this technology. Altimeter partner Jamin Ball reports that those rewards started coming in last quarter, and the ball kept on rolling into this one. Amazon cloud growth had dropped as low as 12% in Q2 and Q3 last year, climbing a bit to 13% in Q4. But the company really kicked it up a notch this quarter with revenue of $25 billion, up 17% over the prior year. That’s a $100 billion run rate, good for 31% market share.

Ball’s numbers indicate that Azure continues to kill it. The company now has 25% market share, good for a $76 billion run rate, up 31% over the previous year. Google is a strong third with 11% market share, up 28% YoY (although it’s important to note that Ball’s number includes Google Workspace, and Synergy’s numbers are only infrastructure and platform numbers).

Image Credits: Jamin Ball

The days of cost cutting in the cloud appear to be over. And although we probably aren’t going back to the heady growth numbers of 2021 and 2022, AI seems to be bringing a new wave of substantial growth to the cloud vendors.

“In terms of annualized run rate, we now have a $300 billion market, which is growing at 21% per year,” Synergy’s chief analyst John Dinsdale said in a statement. “We will not return to the growth rates seen prior to 2022, as the market has become too massive to grow that rapidly, but we will see the market continue to expand substantially. We are forecasting that it will double in size over the next four years.”

As companies’ continuing thirst for AI and the data management related to that grows, it seems that the cloud glory days are back. The growth may not be as gaudy as back in the day, but it’s still pretty darn good for a maturing industry sector, with all signs pointing to solid growth in the coming years.

Image Credits: Synergy Research


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Microsoft bans U.S. police departments from using enterprise AI tool for facial recognition | TechCrunch


Microsoft has changed its policy to ban U.S. police departments from using generative AI for facial recognition through the Azure OpenAI Service, the company’s fully managed, enterprise-focused wrapper around OpenAI technologies.

Language added Wednesday to the terms of service for Azure OpenAI Service prohibits integrations with Azure OpenAI Service from being used “by or for” police departments for facial recognition in the U.S., including integrations with OpenAI’s text- and speech-analyzing models.

A separate new bullet point covers “any law enforcement globally,” and explicitly bars the use of “real-time facial recognition technology” on mobile cameras, like body cameras and dashcams, to attempt to identify a person in “uncontrolled, in-the-wild” environments.

The changes in terms come a week after Axon, a maker of tech and weapons products for military and law enforcement, announced a new product that leverages OpenAI’s GPT-4 generative text model to summarize audio from body cameras. Critics were quick to point out the potential pitfalls, like hallucinations (even the best generative AI models today invent facts) and racial biases introduced from the training data (which is especially concerning given that people of color are far more likely to be stopped by police than their white peers).

It’s unclear whether Axon was using GPT-4 via Azure OpenAI Service, and, if so, whether the updated policy was in response to Axon’s product launch. OpenAI had previously restricted the use of its models for facial recognition through its APIs. We’ve reached out to Axon, Microsoft and OpenAI and will update this post if we hear back.

The new terms leave wiggle room for Microsoft.

The complete ban on Azure OpenAI Service usage pertains only to U.S., not international, police. And it doesn’t cover facial recognition performed with stationary cameras in controlled environments, like a back office (although the terms prohibit any use of facial recognition by U.S. police).

That tracks with Microsoft’s and close partner OpenAI’s recent approach to AI-related law enforcement and defense contracts.

In January, reporting by Bloomberg revealed that OpenAI is working with the Pentagon on a number of projects including cybersecurity capabilities — a departure from the startup’s earlier ban on providing its AI to militaries. Elsewhere, Microsoft has pitched using OpenAI’s image generation tool, DALL-E, to help the Department of Defense (DoD) build software to execute military operations, per The Intercept.

Azure OpenAI Service became available in Microsoft’s Azure Government product in February, adding additional compliance and management features geared toward government agencies including law enforcement. In a blog post, Candice Ling, SVP of Microsoft’s government-focused division Microsoft Federal, pledged that Azure OpenAI Service would be “submitted for additional authorization” to the DoD for workloads supporting DoD missions.

Update: After publication, Microsoft said its original change to the terms of service contained an error, and in fact the ban applies only to facial recognition in the U.S. It is not a blanket ban on police departments using the service. 

 


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Microsoft bans U.S. police departments from using enterprise AI tool | TechCrunch


Microsoft has changed its policy to ban U.S. police departments from using generative AI through the Azure OpenAI Service, the company’s fully managed, enterprise-focused wrapper around OpenAI technologies.

Language added Wednesday to the terms of service for Azure OpenAI Service prohibits integrations with Azure OpenAI Service from being used “by or for” police departments in the U.S., including integrations with OpenAI’s text- and speech-analyzing models.

A separate new bullet point covers “any law enforcement globally,” and explicitly bars the use of “real-time facial recognition technology” on mobile cameras, like body cameras and dashcams, to attempt to identify a person in “uncontrolled, in-the-wild” environments.

The changes in terms come a week after Axon, a maker of tech and weapons products for military and law enforcement, announced a new product that leverages OpenAI’s GPT-4 generative text model to summarize audio from body cameras. Critics were quick to point out the potential pitfalls, like hallucinations (even the best generative AI models today invent facts) and racial biases introduced from the training data (which is especially concerning given that people of color are far more likely to be stopped by police than their white peers).

It’s unclear whether Axon was using GPT-4 via Azure OpenAI Service, and, if so, whether the updated policy was in response to Axon’s product launch. OpenAI had previously restricted the use of its models for facial recognition through its APIs. We’ve reached out to Axon, Microsoft and OpenAI and will update this post if we hear back.

The new terms leave wiggle room for Microsoft.

The complete ban on Azure OpenAI Service usage pertains only to U.S., not international, police. And it doesn’t cover facial recognition performed with stationary cameras in controlled environments, like a back office (although the terms prohibit any use of facial recognition by U.S. police).

That tracks with Microsoft’s and close partner OpenAI’s recent approach to AI-related law enforcement and defense contracts.

In January, reporting by Bloomberg revealed that OpenAI is working with the Pentagon on a number of projects including cybersecurity capabilities — a departure from the startup’s earlier ban on providing its AI to militaries. Elsewhere, Microsoft has pitched using OpenAI’s image generation tool, DALL-E, to help the Department of Defense (DoD) build software to execute military operations, per The Intercept.

Azure OpenAI Service became available in Microsoft’s Azure Government product in February, adding additional compliance and management features geared toward government agencies including law enforcement. In a blog post, Candice Ling, SVP of Microsoft’s government-focused division Microsoft Federal, pledged that Azure OpenAI Service would be “submitted for additional authorization” to the DoD for workloads supporting DoD missions.

Microsoft and OpenAI did not immediately return requests for comment.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Microsoft taps Sanctuary AI for general-purpose robot research | TechCrunch


Microsoft, it seems, is hedging its bets when it comes to general-purpose robotics AI. At the end of February, the Windows maker spearheaded a massive $675 million Series B in Bay Area-based Figure. Today, the tech giant announced a collaboration with Figure competitor Sanctuary AI, best known for its humanoid robot, Phoenix.

The Sanctuary partnership really gets to the heart of Microsoft’s interest in the category: artificial general intelligence. It’s a concept that comes up a lot when discussing humanoid robots — too often, I would argue, given the state of things. While such breakthroughs are likely several years off (at least), they’re required for humanoid robots to reach the long promised “general-purpose status.”

In essence, that means robots that can learn and reason like humans. That represents a potential quantum leap for robotic capabilities, which have traditionally been limited to one or two tasks. The humanoid form factor opens these systems to a far broader range of motion than single-purpose systems, but they will ultimately need the intelligence to match.

“Creating systems that think like, and understand us, is one of the biggest civilization-level technical problems and opportunities that we will ever face,” Sanctuary co-founder and CEO Geordie Rose notes. “A challenge like this requires the best global minds to work together. We’re excited to be working with Microsoft to unlock the next generation of AI models that will power general-purpose robots.”

Such a partnership deepens Microsoft’s commitment to AI development and delivers a partner who can design hardware to those specifications. Sanctuary has been operating in the space for some time now, and recently scored a pilot partnership with Magna, which will bring the latest version of Phoenix to car plants.

All told, Sanctuary robots “have been tested across 400 customer-defined tasks across 15 different industries.” Of course, we’re still in the very early stages of all of this.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates spoke about his own interest in humanoids earlier this year. Neither Sanctuary nor Figure got a mention, though he did spend some time discussing competitors Agility and Apptronik.

Microsoft isn’t alone in hedging its bets in the category. OpenAI (another Microsoft partner) has made its own investments in both Figure and competitor 1X.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

UK probes Amazon and Microsoft over AI partnerships with Mistral, Anthropic, and Inflection | TechCrunch


The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is launching preliminary enquiries into whether the close-knit tie-ups and hiring practices involving Microsoft, Amazon and a trio of AI startup falls within the scope of its merger rules — and whether the arrangements could impact competition in the U.K. market.

The announcement comes amid growing scrutiny of Big Tech’s fresh approach to M&A in the world of artificial intelligence (AI), where the so-called “quasi-merger” has emerged as flavor of the day as a means of — apparently — bypassing regulatory oversight.

Microsoft’s investment in, and close partnership with, ChatGPT-maker OpenAI attracted the CMA’s scrutiny late last year, with the regulator launching a formal “invitation to comment,” aimed at relevant stakeholders in the AI and business spheres. Since then, Microsoft hired the core team behind Inflection AI, a U.S.-based OpenAI rival it had previously invested in, and earlier this month Microsoft launched a new London AI hub fronted by former Inflection and DeepMind scientist Jordan Hoffmann.

Elsewhere, Microsoft also recently invested in Mistral AI, a French AI startup working on foundational models that could be construed as rivalling OpenAI.

And then there’s Amazon, which recently completed its $4 billion investment in Anthropic — another U.S.-based AI company working on large language models.

Collectively, these latest deals

The CMA’s executive director of mergers, Joel Bamford, said that it’s merely inviting comments from relevant parties, as it assesses whether these various partnerships are tantamount to mergers, and whether it might impact competition in the U.K.’s fast-growing AI industry.

“Foundation models have the potential to fundamentally impact the way we all live and work, including products and services across so many U.K. sectors – healthcare, energy, transport, finance and more,” Bamford said in a statement. “So open, fair, and effective competition in foundation model markets is critical to making sure the full benefits of this transformation are realised by people and businesses in the UK, as well as our wider economy where technology has a huge role to play in growth and productivity.”

This is a development story, refresh for updates.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

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