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Featured Article : Amazon Launching ‘Q’ Chatbot

Following on from the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard (and Duet), Microsoft’s Copilot, and X’s Grok, now Amazon has announced that it will soon be launching its own ‘Q’ generative AI chatbot (for business).

Cue Q 

Amazon has become the latest of the tech giants to announce the introduction of its own generative AI chatbot. Recently announced at the Las Vegas conference for its AWS, ‘Q’ is Amazon’s chatbot that will be available as part of its market-leading AWS cloud platform. As such, Q is being positioned from the beginning as very much a business-focused chatbot with Amazon introducing the current preview version as: “Your generative AI–powered assistant designed for work that can be tailored to your business.” 

What Can It Do? 

The key point from Amazon is that Q is a chatbot that can be tailored to help your business get the most from AWS. Rather like Copilot is embedded in (and works across) Microsoft’s popular 365 apps, Amazon is pitching Q as working across many of its services, providing better navigation and leveraging for AWS customers with many (often overlapping) service options. For example, Amazon says Q will be available wherever you work with AWS (and is an “expert” on patterns in AWS), in Amazon QuickSight (its business intelligence (BI) service built for the cloud), in Amazon Connect (as a customer service chatbot helper), and will also be available in AWS Supply Chain (to help with inventory management).

Just like other AI chatbots, it’s powered by AI models which in this case includes Amazon’s Titan large language model. Also, like other AI chatbots, Q uses a web-based interface to answer questions (streamlining searches), can provide summaries, generate content and more. However, since it’s part of AWS, Amazon’s keen to show that it adds value by doing so within the context of the business it’s tailored to and becomes an ‘expert’ on your business. For example, Amazon says: “Amazon Q can be tailored to your business by connecting it to company data, information, and systems, made simple with more than 40 built-in connectors. Business users—like marketers, project and program managers, and sales representatives, among others—can have tailored conversations, solve problems, generate content, take actions, and more.” The 40 connectors it’s referring to include popular enterprise apps (and storage depositories) like S3, Salesforce, Google Drive, Microsoft 365, ServiceNow, Gmail, Slack, Atlassian, and Zendesk. The power, value, and convenience that Q may provide to businesses may also, therefore, help with AWS customer retention and barriers to exit.

Benefits 

Just some of the many benefits that Amazon describes Q as having include:

– Delivering fast, accurate, and relevant (and secure) answers to your business questions.

– Quickly connecting to your business data, information, and systems, thereby enabling employees to have tailored conversations, solve problems, generate content, and take actions relevant to your business.

– Generating answers and insights according to the material and knowledge that you provide (backed up with references and source citations).

– Respecting access control based on user permissions.

– Enabling admins to easily apply guardrails to customise and control responses.

– Providing administrative controls, e.g. it can block entire topics and filter both questions so that it responds in a way that is consistent with a company’s guidelines.

– Extracting key insights on your business and generating reports and summaries.

– Easy deployment and security, i.e. it supports access control for your data and can be integrated with your external SAML 2.0–supported identity provider (Okta, Azure AD, and Ping Identity) to manage user authentication and authorisation.

When, How, And How Much? 

Q’s in preview at the moment with Amazon giving no exact date for its full launch. Although many of the Q capabilities are available without charge during the preview period, Amazon says It will be available in two pricing plans: Business and Builder. Amazon Q Business (its basic version) will be priced at $20/mo, per-user, and Builder at $25/mo, per-user. The difference appears to be that Builder provides the real AWS expertise plus other features including debugging, testing, and optimising your code, troubleshooting applications and more. Pricewise, Q is cheaper per month/per user than Microsoft’s Copilot and Google’s Duet (both $30).

Not All Good 

Despite Amazon’s leading position in the cloud computing world with AWS, and its technological advances in robotics (robots for its warehouses), its forays in space travel (with Amazon Blue) and into delivery-drone technology, it appears that it may be temporarily lagging in AI-related matters. For example, in addition to being later to market with this AI chatbot ‘Q’, in October, a Stanford University index ranked Amazon’s Tital AI model (which is used in Q) as bottom for transparency in a ranking of the top foundational AI models with only 12 per cent (compared to the top ranking Llama 2 from Meta at 54 per cent). As Stanford puts it: “Less transparency makes it harder for other businesses to know if they can safely build applications that rely on commercial foundation models; for academics to rely on commercial foundation models for research; for policymakers to design meaningful policies to rein in this powerful technology; and for consumers to understand model limitations or seek redress for harms caused.” 

Also, perhaps unsurprisingly due to Q only just being in preview, some other reports about it haven’t been that great. For example, feedback about Q (leaked from Amazon’s internal channels and ticketing systems) highlight issues like severe hallucinations and leaking confidential data. Hallucinations are certainly not unique to Q as reports about and admissions by OpenAI about ChatGPT’s hallucinations have been widely reported.

Catching Up 

Amazon also looks like it will be makingeven greater efforts to catch up in the AI development world. For example, in September it said Alexa will be getting ChatGPT-like voice capabilities, and it’s been reported that Amazon’s in the process of building a language model called Olympus that could be bigger and better than OpenAI’s GPT-4!

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although a little later to the party with AI chatbot, Amazon’s dominance in the cloud market with AWS means it has a huge number of business customers to sell its business-focused Q to. This will not only provide another revenue stream to boost its vast coffers but will also enhance, add value to, and allow customers to get greater leverage from the different branches of its different cloud-related services. What with Microsoft, Google, X, Meta, and others all having their own chatbot assistants, it’s almost expected that any other big players in the tech world like Amazon would bring out their own soon.

Despite some (embarrassing internal) reviews of issues in its current preview stage and a low transparency ranking in a recent Stanford report, Amazon clearly has ambitions to make fast progress in catching up in the AI market. With its market power, wealth, and expertise in diversification and its advances in technologies like space travel and robotics and the synergies it brings (e.g. satellite broadband), you’d likely not wish to bet against Amazon making quick progress to the top in AI too.

Q therefore is less of a standalone chatbot like ChatGPT (OpenAI and former workers have helped develop AI for others) and more of Copilot and Duet arrangement in that it’s being introduced to enhance and add value to existing Amazon cloud services, but in a very focused way (more so for Builder) in that it’s “trained on over 17 years’ worth of AWS knowledge and experience”.

Despite Q still being in preview, Amazon’s ambitions to make a quantum leap ahead are already clear if the reports about its super powerful, GPT-4 rivalling (still under development) Olympus model are accurate. It remains to be seen, therefore, how well Q performs once it’s really out there and its introduction marks another major move by a serious contender in the rapidly evolving and growing generative AI market.