Amazon finds itself in the unusual position of playing catch-up in AI

It was kind of a strange AWS re:Invent this week in Las Vegas. Once again, there wasn’t a huge amount of news coming out of the massive customer event; the biggest announcements were related to AI, of course. But the real story could be that Amazon has found itself in the uncomfortable position of chasing Microsoft when it comes to AI.

And that’s in spite of the drama that played out at OpenAI last week, in which Microsoft was squarely in the middle.

The rivalry became clear when Amazon CEO Adam Selipsky took some not-so-subtle cheap shots at AWS’ cloud rival during the main keynote on Tuesday.

To be clear, being behind, if that’s what’s happening, is not necessarily fatal for Amazon. It has dominated the cloud since it invented the idea in 2006. And the generative AI landscape is still so nascent, and the market is shifting so quickly, that the perception among investors and some in the media, that Microsoft is ahead, could be moot in 12 or 18 months.

Like last year, the truly newsworthy announcements were thin with perhaps the most interesting being Amazon Q. It helps developers connect a generative AI layer to enterprise software and was being billed by some at the event as Amazon’s answer to Microsoft Copilot. And that could give credence to the idea that the cloud giant is, in fact, playing catch-up here.

Scott Raney, a partner at Redpoint, says that Microsoft made a couple of great moves, like buying GitHub for $7.5 billion in 2018 and investing at least $10 billion in OpenAI. That has put it in a good position to take advantage of the generative AI wave companies have been riding this year.

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