Only a handful of companies can compete at this level. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft “have all these PhDs, and they have all this PhD tech,” says Ali Ghodsi, the CEO of Databricks, a startup that works with businesses to add AI to their processes. “But the rest of the Fortune 2000, they don’t,” leading to what Ghodsi states is an emerging “1% problem,” in which only the largest players have the wherewithal to take full advantage of this new technology.
The saving grace is that businesses of all sizes can avail themselves of some of these AI innovations. In fact, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are counting on it. Their cloud-computing platforms—Amazon Web Services, Azure, and Google Cloud, respectively—include enterprise AI offerings such as image recognition, natural language processing, and language translation. All three companies see AI as the key to driving future growth of their cloud platforms; at present, Amazon Web Services is a $16 billion business that’s increasing 42% year over year, though that pace has slowed as Microsoft and Google begin to catch up. Then there’s IBM, which calls its flavor of artificial intelligence “cognitive computing” and has effectively branded it as “Watson” to sell as a service. While Facebook and Apple don’t offer their own platforms, they publish academic papers on their research—and, in Facebook’s case, it open-sources some of the technologies it’s created.