- Justin Sullivan/Getty
When you think of artificial intelligence these days, it’s easy to think of the chat bots that the tech industry seems obsessed with.
And chat bots as they exist today are pretty underwhelming.
But Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff says that AI is way bigger than that, and is really the next big thing after mobile and social changed the tech world over the past five years.
Smart computers that can think, talk, reason, and predict will be able to do more than just search Google for us or order a pizza. They will eventually do stuff we haven’t even imagined yet.
Benioff, talking to analysts during Salesforce’s quarterly conference call, called this the “AI-first world.”
Right now, Salesforce is trying to hit a milestone of $10 billion in sales. It promises that its current fiscal year will end with over $8 billion in revenue. He believes that artificial intelligence is how Salesforce will keep growing.
“We are introducing this AI wrapper,” he said. “Artificial intelligence is becoming part of Sales Cloud” and it will eventually be part of all of the company’s apps.
For now, the company’s shining example is the SalesforceIQ Inbox app, a product that came from Salesforce’s $390 million acquisition of RelateIQ in 2014. It’s an email inbox that takes a salesperson’s email and calendar info and the customer data in Salesforce’s cloud to help salespeople prioritize their work.
He’s not alone with this vision. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has been preaching this concept for a while. She calls it cognitive computing and believes that smart computers are going to be part of every decision humans make and eventually change who you are.
IBM’s AI tech is called Watson, and it’s already being used for everything from personalized health to powering human-like robots.
Google chairman Eric Schmidt predicts that AI and machine learning – i.e., computers that can teach themselves stuff – will be what drives all the next huge successful startups and IPOs in the next five years.
He compares AI to the mobile revolution that gave us Uber, Snapchat, and others.
The prime example of Google’s AI engine is Google Now and Google Photos. Photos can recognize your pictures so you can search for a picture without tagging it – like looking for photos of your dog by typing “puppy,” or your kid by typing “daughter.”
Now has even been known to recognize when you are searching for a photo of a loved one who died and offer condolences.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also thinks that bots are the next big thing after apps. Cortana is its flagship example – if you don’t count Tay, the Twitter bot that quickly turned racist and was unplugged. But Microsoft also has a photo-captioning service.
IBM, Microsoft, and Google – and, we expect, one day Salesforce – are all also making artificial intelligence available as various cloud services that developers can bake into their own apps.
So whether you think bots are a joke or for real, the stars of the tech world all see AI as the next big thing.