Chinese search giant Baidu will integrate its ChatGPT-style Ernie Bot across the company’s operations after opening it to the public in March, co-founder and CEO Robin Li said Wednesday.
Baidu plans to embed Ernie Bot into its search service first, which the company thinks will attract more users and boost market share “in a profitable manner,” Li told analysts in a conference call. Then the company intends to make the bot widely available to its intelligent driving unit and its business partners, and expects “more and more business owners and entrepreneurs” to build their own models and applications on Baidu’s AI Cloud.
“Recently, with users raving about ChatGPT, large language models (LLMs) using generative AI have created a mega trend that will revolutionize many businesses,” Li said. “Baidu is well positioned to capitalize on the imminent inflection point in artificial intelligence.”
Baidu, along with other Chinese tech companies, announced its upcoming launch of a ChatGPT-style bot this month after Microsoft-backed ChatGPT took the tech world by storm and Google introduced its AI chatbot Bard.
Ernie Bot, which initially may not be a chatbot but rather an embedded feature in Baidu’s products, is built on tech the company said has been in development since 2019.
“We have been working on LLM for a few years. We launched Ernie in March 2019, and have scaled it up with well over 100 billion parameters,” Li said, adding that it receives training via several billion user search requests and other applications daily.
Chinese regulators have told domestic companies not to offer the ChatGPT service amid growing alarm in Beijing over the AI-powered chatbot’s uncensored replies to user queries, and tech companies also will need to report to regulators before they launch their own similar services, Nikkei reported Wednesday.
Li said in the call that Baidu’s Ernie Bot is “more suitable” to the Chinese language and the Chinese market than models developed overseas.
“It is not only about language, but also about understanding Chinese culture,” he said. “Ernie 3.0 is already a very localized AI foundation model for the China market, which means the generative large language model we are working on right now will be more suitable in China.”
Baidu’s revenue for the fourth quarter was flat at RMB 33.1 billion (USD 4.8 billion), beating the average estimate of RMB 32 billion (USD 4.6 billion) from analysts surveyed by Refinitiv. The company’s preferred non-GAAP net income, which usually excludes irregular or non-cash expenses, came in as RMB 5.4 billion (USD 777.7 million), up 32% on the year.
Around 60% of Baidu’s revenue comes from online marketing services.
Baidu’s American depository receipts were trading down around 3.5% on the Nasdaq in morning trading Wednesday. Its shares surged to an 11-month high on February 7 after the search giant revealed its plan to launch Ernie Bot.
Baidu also has announced a share buyback program of up to USD 5 billion through the end of 2025.