Alibaba invests $ 19 billion in R&D, focus on artificial intelligence

Photo: Christopher Katsarov The canadian Press
The research center of Alibaba will be guided by the performance of the laboratories of the titans american of the computer IBM and Microsoft, according to the company’s founder, Jack Ma.

Beijing — The chinese giant of e-commerce Alibaba announced Wednesday that it will spend nearly $ 19 billion in research, especially to boost its technologies of artificial intelligence, which are crucial to continue to dominate a highly competitive sector.

 

The group will spend this amount in three years in its research and development (R & D) and establish seven new laboratories in the world, announced the director of technology, Jeff Zhang, at a forum on cloud computing, according to the group. This would correspond roughly to a doubling : during its fiscal year 2016-2017, completed in march, Alibaba had spent the equivalent of $ 3.1 billion in spending on its ” product development “.

 

“The research areas will cover the processing of data, connected objects […] the interactions between man and machine,” said Alibaba in a statement. Of what to allow him to stay in the race for technologies of artificial intelligence, where other behemoths of the chinese Internet — to start with Baidu and Tencent — are already investing heavily. Tencent, operator of the e-mail:, has already opened a lab on this niche in the United States.

 

This is in addition to the word order of the chinese government, which wants to make the country a pioneer of artificial intelligence. “Without abundant financial resources, it is difficult to set up a lab “, but ” Alibaba, which now has 18 years of existence, has many resources “, has hammered its iconic founder, the multibillion Jack Ma, quoted in the press release.

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The research center of Alibaba will be guided by the performance of the laboratories of the titans american of the computer IBM and Microsoft, ” added Mr. Ma. Alibaba will, however, remain very far from the giant california of the Internet, Amazon or Alphabet (parent company Google) in terms of investments in R and D. And as its revenues are expected to continue to surge, the proportion of its turnover is devoted to research could evolve only marginally.

 

At the end of march, some 22 450 group employees — 45 % of the payroll — worked in R and D.

 

If Alibaba has widely diversified its activities, particularly in the entertainment and finance industry in line, he always pulls the overwhelming majority of income (86 %) of its e-commerce platforms, on a background of robust demand. With its platform, Taobao, it dominates 90% of the market exchanges between individuals on the Internet. But before the economic downturn and the emergence of competitors, the company intends to refine its technological tools, relying on the power of algorithms to boost its advertising revenues.

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