Amazon Bets on Machine-Learning To Best Cloud Rivals

Amazon Web Services unveiled its latest wares in the cloud-computing arms race [in Las Vegas] on Wednesday, deploying a suite of services designed to let software developers take advantage of artificial intelligence capabilities without first getting a Ph.D.

Andy Jassy [pictured here], chief executive of the online retailer's cloud-computing unit, announced more than a dozen new services, including software that translates and transcribes speech, analyzes videos and gives developers a leg up in building their own tools. He was speaking in a keynote Wednesday morning at AWS's sixth annual re:Invent conference.

"The hype and the hope here is tremendous," Jassy said of machine learning, the set of services that helps algorithms improve with experience. Many companies are experimenting with such services, he said, "yet I would argue it's still very early."

Jassy's unit, Amazon's most profitable division, grew up by offering bite-sized, simple services: storage and computing power, at first, and later, database tools and other on-demand versions of existing business software.

The next frontier is applications that can help developers train algorithms to do things like sift through thousands of hotel reviews to find the most salient points, or serve up useful music recommendations to listeners on a streaming service.

It's a highly competitive field. Microsoft, through its research arm, has deep experience at the cutting edge of intelligent software. So does Google, by virtue of the expertise built by developing its search engine and ubiquitous consumer apps. Some technologists say those companies' expertise gives them a leg up on Amazon when building services designed to recognize human intent or detect patterns in data.

AWS, the market leader in cloud computing services by a wide margin, responded on Wednesday with Jassy spending much of his keynote discussing next-generation software and bringing AWS customers to the stage to testify to its utility.

An executive at the National...

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