Amazon steps up AI race with up to $4 billion deal to invest in Anthropic

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2023 on Monday said it will invest up to $4 billion in cash in the high-profile startup Anthropic, in its effort to compete with growing cloud rivals on artificial intelligence.

Amazon's employees and cloud customers will gain early access to technology from Anthropic as part of the deal, which they can infuse into their businesses. The San Francisco-based startup also committed to relying primarily on Amazon's cloud services, including training its future AI models on large quantities of proprietary chips it would buy from the online retailing and computing giant.

The news represents perhaps Amazon's biggest answer yet to challenges from Microsoft and Alphabet's Google, smaller cloud rivals that have marketed or developed powerful AI this year. The deal also shows ongoing manoeuvring by the cloud companies to secure ties with AI startups reshaping their industry.

Since 2019, Microsoft has put billions of dollars into its partnership with ChatGPT's creator OpenAI, giving its customers special access to the startup's prose-writing, image-generating technology.

Google meanwhile helped pioneer this branch of AI and in May invested in Anthropic's US$450-million fundraising, in a relationship the startup said is not going away.

Amazon steps up AI race with up to $4 billion deal to invest in Anthropic

For Amazon, Monday's deal may spell an uptick in demand, including for chips powering AI. Anthropic agreed to work on developing technology for Amazon's in-house Trainium and Inferentia chips, for instance.

Anthropic, founded by former OpenAI executives, is one of a series of companies building so-called generative AI, systems that can draft content as if a human created it. Anthropic has aimed to distinguish its work by training AI to adhere to moral values.

Anthropic's Claude 2 is an AI model that is able to respond to particularly large prompts, setting it up to analyze long business or legal documents.

LexisNexis, a data analytics company, is working with Anthropic and Amazon to make its own legal search capabilities more "intelligent." Other customers include Bridgewater Associates and Lonely Planet.

Anthropic has yet to gain the name recognition or usage of OpenAI, the startup behind the GPT-4 model and ChatGPT, which is one of the fastest-growing software applications in history.

Amazon has aimed to give customers a broad range of AI models so they have little reason to look afield for cloud services.

In July, US President Joe Biden announced an agreement reached with AI companies to develop safety guidelines for artificial intelligence.

Companies including OpenAI, Alphabet and Meta Platforms have made voluntary commitments to the White House to implement measures such as watermarking AI-generated content to help make the technology safer, the Biden administration said.

The companies - which also include Anthropic, Inflection, Amazon and OpenAI partner Microsoft - pledged to thoroughly test systems before releasing them and share information about how to reduce risks and invest in cybersecurity.