Alibaba reveals its upcoming AI model to challenge ChatGPT

11 Apr 2023

Image: © zhu difeng/

Alibaba plans to integrate its new large language model, Tongyi Qianwen, into its various businesses while making the AI system available for customers and developers.

After months of reported development, Alibaba Cloud has revealed its own generative AI system to challenge the success of ChatGPT.

The Chinese e-commerce giant said this new large language model, Tongyi Qianwen, will be integrated across the company’s businesses in the near future to improve customer experiences. The AI model will have Chinese and English language capabilities.

The new AI system will also be accessible for customers and developers who wish to create their own customised AI features.

Alibaba said general enterprise customers in China currently have access to the model for beta testing, while developers have beta access to Tongyi Qianwen’s API.

Alibaba Group chair and CEO Daniel Zhang said generative AI and cloud computing have driven a “technological watershed moment” and businesses are embracing intelligence transformation to “stay ahead of the game”.

“Alibaba Cloud is committed to making computing and AI services more accessible and inclusive for enterprises and developers, enabling them to uncover more insights, explore new business models for growth, and create more cutting-edge products and services for society,” Zhang said.

Alibaba said Tongyi Qianwen will first be deployed on DingTalk – Alibaba’s digital collaboration platform – and Tmall Genie, which gives users access to IoT smart home appliances.

The Chinese company said it plans to add further features to the AI model in the future, including image understanding and text-to-image capabilities.

Alibaba’s announcement comes less than a month after the company revealed it is splitting into six separate units to increase value for shareholders and avoid anti-competition regulatory pressures.

The AI surge

There has been a rapid growth in the use of AI products in recent months, spurred on by the release of ChatGPT last November.

This advanced chatbot by OpenAI became extremely popular in a short timeframe. Meanwhile, Microsoft has integrated its capabilities into its own services such as Bing.

The adoption of ChatGPT by Microsoft also helped create an AI arms race, with Google revealing its AI chatbot, Bard, as a potential rival, while other tech giants moved to get their AI systems up to speed.

It hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing for AI systems, however. ChatGPT has faced some controversy recently, with a recent ban in Italy and an ongoing data investigation in Canada.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic