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Vladislav Rybakov
Vladislav Rybakov

Microsoft Hypes Up Its Big Data Prowess

By Emily Bary Mentions of AI on earnings calls have picked up sharply, with Google, Microsoft and Facebook proving especially chatty The pace of artificial-intelligence chatter from executives is picking up after the success of ChatGPT, and it isn't all from Big Tech. Big Tech companies like Microsoft Corp., Meta Platforms Inc., and Alphabet Inc. are understandably among the heaviest hitters in discussing AI during earnings conference calls this quarter, but businesses across other sectors getting in on the action as well. While the number of earnings calls devoting mention to AI is down from this point a year ago, the number of mentions of AI has picked up sharply, led by tech giants that are talking up their AI prowess a lot more. There have been 99 earnings calls for companies worth at least $5 billion in which artificial intelligence, or AI, got at least one mention so far this year, compared with 111 by this point in 2022, according to a MarketWatch analysis of transcript data from AlphaSense/Sentieo. But this year's calls have brought 466 total mentions of AI, well higher than the 303 seen a year ago. Management teams seem to want Wall Street to know the ways that AI is already impacting their business and how it could drive future gains, especially given frenzied interest in the technology brought on by OpenAI's debut of its ChatGPT chatbot late last year. That launch introduced more people to the power of AI and kicked off a frenzy on Wall Street, as evidenced by BuzzFeed Inc.'s (BZFD) surging stock price after The Wall Street Journal reported on the company's plans to use OpenAI technology in enhancing its quizzes. Read: Comcast sells nearly 6 million shares of its BuzzFeed stake amid sharp rally Mentions of crypto on conference calls soared at various points in 2021 and 2022 alongside rocketing prices for digital assets. But unlike with crypto, ChatGPT is "something where one can see the immediate applications," AlphaSense/Sentieo's research director Nick Mazing told MarketWatch. It's "unsurprising to see everyone jumping in, partially driven by the public attention the OpenAI products garnered," Mazing said. See also: What is ChatGPT? Well, you can ask it yourself It's not unusual for smaller companies to want to get in on the craze of the moment, as was seen several years ago when Eastman Kodak Co. (KODK) and the business then known as Long Island Iced Tea Corp. were among those that announced pivots to blockchain. The AI showmanship, however, is heating up the most at large tech companies, though. Microsoft (MSFT), Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL)(GOOGL), Facebook parent Meta (META) and Apple Inc. (AAPL) all develop and use AI in various ways, some of which aren't obvious or public. But Microsoft has gotten a boost in the eyes of some investors thanks to its investment in OpenAI and its plans to integrate the technology into some parts of its business. ChatGPT's buzz and Microsoft's involvement with it have reportedly ramped up the pressure at Google-parent Alphabet to show off more of its own AI capabilities, according to the New York Times. Read: ChatGPT to charge $20 a month for premium subscriptions, as chatbot grows faster than TikTok Perhaps that's why executives at Alphabet were especially chatty about AI this week. The words "AI" or "artificial intelligence" came up 62 times on Thursday afternoon's earnings call, up from 26 on the corresponding call in 2022. The counts include mentions both by management and analysts. "We are just at the beginning of our AI journey, and the best is yet to come," Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said on the latest call. Executives at Meta, the Facebook parent company, upped their rhetoric as well. AI came up 37 times on Meta's earnings call, up from 10 times a year earlier. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg highlighted that while Meta uses AI for recommendations and in its advertising business, he wants the company to "build on our research to become a leader in generative AI," the type of AI that ChatGPT fits into. Investors might not have been able to sense the depths of Microsoft's AI involvement if they were judging only by the company's prior few earnings calls, with just single-digit mentions of AI in each of the seven calls dating back to the first quarter of 2021. But Microsoft's management team was more forthcoming this time around: The company's Jan. 24 call featured 29 mentions of AI. The company's investment and commercial partnership with OpenAI are "going to drive, I think, innovation and competitive differentiation in every one of the Microsoft solutions by leading in AI," Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said on the call. Apple (AAPL) was quieter on the topic. The only two mentions of AI on its Thursday call came from Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers, who asked about the role of AI in Apple's services business and whether Apple was using AI more to better monetize its subscriber base. Don't miss: ChatGPT is called 'an iPhone moment in AI,' but will it make money like the iPhone? "It is a major focus of ours," Chief Executive Tim Cook replied. AI "will affect every product and every service that we have." A Sentieo search indicates that the term "AI" hadn't come up on an Apple earnings call since May 2018 before this latest one. AI didn't come up at all on Inc.'s (AMZN) call, but executives at other tech companies were more verbose. At International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), AI received 34 mentions, up from 21 mentions a year before, and at networking company Juniper Inc. (JNPR), AI came up 24 times, versus 13 at on the corresponding call last year. The first reason behind Juniper Chief Executive Rami Rahim's optimism about the business despite macroeconomic reasons is Juniper's "focus on leveraging AI-driven cloud-based automation tools to simplify customer operations and improve the end user experience," he said. Opinion: Delivery drones, robotaxis, even insurance -- wildly hyped dreams for AI startups are giving tech investors nightmares It wasn't just tech executives devoting more time to the technology, however. On the call for Robert Half international Inc. (RHI), a staffing company, AI garnered nine mentions, above the two heard a year before. "We're very pleased with the returns we've gotten, particularly in AI," Chief Executive M. Keith Waddell said. "We're turning our attention to using AI to identify the warmest leads for our field professionals on the sales side." Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) even devoted mention to AI for the first time since April 2021. "We're investing heavily in AI," Chief Executive Jim Umpleby said on Caterpillar's Jan. 31 call. The company uses AI to anticipate where parts will be needed and to give dealers leads on repairs. For more: Cheaters beware -- Maker of ChatGPT releases AI-detection tool for teachers -Emily Bary (END) Dow Jones Newswires February 06, 2023 08:46 ET (13:46 GMT)Copyright (c) 2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.Earnings Calendar and Events Data provided by Terms of Use 2023 Wall Street Horizon, Inc.

Microsoft Hypes Up Its Big Data Prowess

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