Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) stock heated up to start the year, partly thanks to its involvement with OpenAI and ChatGPT. With the Bing AI rollout underway, Microsoft seems to be pulling ahead of the pack in the big-tech scene, causing rivals like Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) to issue a “Code Red” to accelerate efforts that will help get a competing product out the door.
Although Microsoft and Bing are leading the charge, I think it’s far too early to tell who ultimately wins the artificial intelligence (AI) race. In any case, I still think Microsoft is one of the best ways to gain exposure to AI. I am bullish on MSFT stock.
As Microsoft rolls out Bing, Google is right to be concerned. It’s not hard to imagine more people going to ChatGPT or Bing AI with their questions rather than Google. AI chatbots certainly seem like a more effective substitute for traditional search engines.
For Alphabet, being a runner-up in the AI race could have consequences that could exacerbate its stock’s recent slide. The company has already felt the macro headwinds pressuring its ad business. The last thing it needs is to get disrupted by a bitter rival it’s had the upper hand over.
As ChatGPT and the new-and-improved, AI-powered Bing continues to garner traction, an argument could be made that Microsoft is finally getting the competitive edge it needs to help turn Bing into more of a credible threat to Google Search. However, I think it’s quite a stretch to dub Bing the new Google.
The AI Race is Too Close to Call
As AI comes into play, it’ll be interesting to see how industry dynamics shift. For now, Bing seems like a worthy foe, but once Bard AI gets up to speed, the AI race could become too close to call.
Given the recent action in shares of Alphabet (shares are flirting with 52-week lows again after the latest slide), I think many investors may be a tad too quick to discount the search behemoth’s ability to adapt. Bard AI is off to a rocky start and could take a while longer to “one-up” the latest version of ChatGPT or Bing AI. That said, I’d not be so surprised if Bard and Bing leap-frog over one another many times over the next decade.
For investors, I think it’s best to play the long game with both AI innovators. In the meantime, Google has much more to lose than Microsoft, as AI forever changes the search business.
Ads from the Google Search and Other Properties segment still account for more than half of the firm’s total revenues. Meanwhile, Search ad revenue is a much smaller (around 6% of total revenues in 2022), albeit fast-growing part of Microsoft’s revenue pie.
Microsoft’s First-Mover Advantage Seems Intact, but Google is Lurking
For now, Microsoft’s the first mover in the AI race, and it seems to be calling the shots with Bing. There’s no question that Microsoft is moving quickly. The firm recently added the new Bing to its latest update of the Windows operating system.
Still, the early advantages of being a first mover may not last, especially when it comes to nascent technologies like generative AI. Arguably, there are risks of being too early in the chatbot game, in which case it may be better to enjoy the race from the sidelines before deciding to step in.
We’ve all heard about Google’s early fumble with Bard in a demo when it served up an incorrect answer to a prompt. Microsoft hasn’t been immune to such hiccups either. Reportedly, Bing can be nudged to serve up some “emotional” responses.
Such early wrinkles are to be expected, and they take time to iron out. If any firm can iron out said wrinkles, it’s Microsoft — one of the generational growth stars in big tech.
Apple: Slow and Steady Wins the AI Race?
Indeed, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is one company that’s more than willing to learn from the mistakes of its first movers so that when it’s ready to launch its offering, it’s incredibly polished. In that regard, I view Apple as a firm that could win any race with a slow and steady posture.
It’s Apple’s ability to deliver the “best” and “most polished” product to market that makes the brand so incredibly powerful. As the AI race begins, I think Apple is slowly observing, learning, and improving its AI capabilities behind the scenes.
At the end of the day, Apple is all about putting users before technology. And until the early (but expected) hiccups in early-stage generative AI begins to subside, Apple may be content on holding back on launching its own ChatGPT-like bot.
Is Microsoft Stock a Buy, According to Analysts?
Turning to Wall Street, MSFT stock comes in as a Strong Buy. Out of 30 analyst ratings, there are 25 Buys, four Holds, and one Sell recommendation.
The average Microsoft stock price target is $292.07, implying upside potential of 14.6%. Analyst price targets range from a low of $250.00 per share to a high of $411.00 per share.
The Bottom Line
The current state of Bing is far more polished than the hostile Tay bot that Microsoft had to pull the plug on back in 2016. That said, there’s still a lot of work to be done as Bing goes to war with Bard.