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It's time for developers to become experts in artificial intelligence

We’ve written many stories over the past year about cognitive computing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence — which are all, for lack of a better term, kissin’ cousins of modern-day computing. These are all growing in importance and taking on a larger presence. That means the big boys are going all in.

This week’s entry into artificial intelligence (AI) is Microsoft, which just launched its new Microsoft AI and Research Group, staffed with more than 5,000 people. This follows closely Microsoft’s late-August acquisition of AI startup Genee and September’s revelation that field programmable gate array chips are now deployed in its Azure datacenters worldwide. That translates into highly scalable AI.

If you are an applications developer, You must add AI, cognitive computing, machine learning, and analytics expertise to your skills portfolio.

According to Microsoft, the mission behind this major investment is the “democratization” of AI for individuals and organizations, broadening accessability, increasing its usefulness, and “ultimately enabling new ways to solve some of society’s toughest challenges.” Keep that word, democratizing, close at hand; Microsoft is using it frequently in its corporate communications.

The buzzword is fine, but what does democratization encompass? According to the company’s statements, it’s comprised of four key aspects, agents, applications, services, and infrastructure. That doesn’t seem very different than the garden-variety cloud computing we’re all dealing with today, suggesting natural evolution.

  • Agents, such as Microsoft’s digital personal assistant Cortana, is intended to harness AI’s capabilities to change human and computer interaction.
  • Applications, ranging from smartphone photo apps to Skype and Office 365, will be infused with cognitive capabilities — vision and speech — though what that means in practical terms isn’t clear.
  • Services, including the aforementioned vision and speech, along with analytics, will be made available to application developers.
  • Infrastructure, essentially on Azure-based AI supercomputers, will be available to any individual and organization.

What’s really going on here? A likely underlying strategy is to inject new life into the Windows universe. We are living at a time where the importance, influence, and ubiquitousness of Windows is on the wane. With the failure of the Windows phone platform (several times over), it’s easy for businesses to go all in on iOS and Android for their mobile computing needs. The Microsoft Surface hardware business is a last gasp effort to keep Windows alive other than on the desktop.

We are living at a time where the importance, influence, and ubiquitousness of Windows is on the wane.

The path to future career success is coming into clear focus. Even the White House is requesting more information about AI, a clear indication of the technology’s importance. If you are an applications developer, You must add AI, cognitive computing, machine learning, and analytics expertise to your skills portfolio. Microsoft itself is going into a hiring frenzy to transform its AI vision into reality.

What is your comfort level with AI? Are you currently working on projects that involve AI and cognitive computing? What do you expect the future to look like? Share your thoughts and concerns; we’d like to hear from you.

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