Google on Thursday renamed its Bard chatbot after the new artificial intelligence that is powering it, called Gemini, and said consumers can pay for better reasoning capabilities as it vies with Microsoft to win subscriptions.
US customers can subscribe for US$19.99/month to access Gemini Advanced, which includes a more powerful Ultra 1.0 AI model, the Alphabet subsidiary said.
Subscribers will receive 2TB of cloud storage that typically cost $9.99 monthly, and they will soon gain access to Gemini in Gmail and Google’s productivity suite.
This bundle, known as the Google One AI Premium plan, represents one of the company’s biggest answers yet to Microsoft and its partner OpenAI. It also shows growing competition over consumers, who now have several paid AI subscription options.
OpenAI’s ChatGPT Plus a year ago pioneered the market for buying early access to AI models and other features, while Microsoft recently announced a competing subscription for AI in programs such as Word and Excel. Both subscriptions cost $20/month in the US.
In an interview, product lead Jack Krawczyk said cloud storage, Gmail and other integrations would put Google’s subscription in harmony with how people work. “When I pay $20/month, access to a model alone is not really enough,” he said.
Krawczyk said the target market is people who want the most capable generative AI technology that can conjure new content on command and handle queries where no obvious answer exists online.
Google, hoping for another product with billions of users, will use its large base of Android phone customers to give it a leg up. The company said Android users can opt into Gemini as the default digital aide on their phones, accessing it through an app, the power button or by saying “Hey Google”.
“When you do that, it presents one of the lowest friction ways in the world to access AI,” Krawczyk said. Gemini is coming to the Google iPhone app as well, he added.
Read: Microsoft flexes its AI muscles
Gemini Advanced is available in English in 150 countries as of Thursday, Krawczyk said. That includes South Africa.
Gemini’s smartphone roll-out, starting in the US, will expand internationally next week to Asia-Pacific, Latin America and other regions with additional language support in Japanese and Korean, he said. Users get a two-month subscription trial at no cost.
As for the name change, Krawczyk said Google’s AI approach had matured, bringing “the artist formerly known as Bard,” into “the Gemini era.”
The move by Google ups the ante in the race for AI dominance, especially against Microsoft-funded ChatGPT, whose fourth-generation model drives the OpenAI platform’s continued popularity.
Read: Google opens access to Gemini in race to beat OpenAI
Google recently said it had upgraded Bard — now Gemini — to offer advanced image generation capabilities in new regions, including South Africa. “Just type in a description and Bard will generate custom, photorealistic visuals to match your vision,” the company said last month. — Jeffrey Dastin, (c) 2024 Reuters, with additional reporting by Nkosinathi Ndlovu, (c) 2024 NewsCentral Media
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