OpenAI Set to Unveil Secretive Product

Tech brief 8 | AI 5 | VC & Startups 5 | Consumer Tech 5 | Cloud & SaaS 4 | eCommerce 3 | Social 5 | Fintech 3

TECH BRIEF

After a difficult fiscal year, SoftBank's Vision Fund recorded a gain of $4.6 billion for the year ended March, marking its first annual profit since 2021. The fund's recovery was spurred by the value growth of its high-profile investments like ByteDance and DoorDash despite losses from others. With an indication of a shift from "Alibaba to AI-centric portfolio," SoftBank intends to make more strategic investments under its 'offense' strategy.

Microsoft is launching its own mobile game store this July as an alternative to Apple and Google's app stores. Initially housing Microsoft's own games, the store will be opened up to other publishers later. The outcome of the new regulation, the Digital Markets Act, has enabled tech firms to evade App and Google's fees. For lost time in the $90 billion mobile gaming industry, Microsoft's Xbox division eyes swift action following its acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

Google’s annual I/O developer conference, happening next week, will heavily spotlight AI developments. Focus areas are expected to include Gemini, Google's AI model, and its integration into Search, Google Maps, and Android platforms. The event might also introduce a more personal digital assistant, allegedly named “Pixie,” and discuss further transformation of smartphones into AI devices. However, no significant hardware reveals are anticipated.

EA is exploring the addition of ads in its full-price games again, despite backlash from previous attempts. CEO Andrew Wilson believes in-game advertising could be a key growth driver and internal teams are considering thoughtful implementations to placate gamers. This comes amid recent controversies, such as EA patenting a system for personalized in-game ads in 2022, and facing criticism over layoffs and strategies to increase player spending.

Fast-fashion behemoth Shein is accelerating its plans for an IPO in London, following regulatory difficulties in the US. The company, valued at $66 billion last year, also remains interested in a US IPO but has faced challenges including allegations of labour abuse and competition lawsuits. Secondary US listing could follow the London float if the political climate improves.

Alibaba is utilizing its cloud infrastructure to become a key AI investor in China, offering compute credits to AI startups in exchange for equity. The tech giant, led by CEO Eddie Yongming Wu, is focusing on AI innovation and leverages its cloud arm. Alibaba's investment strategy resembles that of Microsoft and Amazon, yet unlike these companies, Alibaba keeps the investment funds in escrow accounts.

OpenAI's mysterious AI product reveal, scheduled for Monday, May 13, is not related to GPT-5 or a search engine. Following this news, Google's stock surged. The live demo will highlight updates on ChatGPT and GPT-4. Despite rumors about a ChatGPT search engine and GPT-5 release, OpenAI has confirmed the announcement focus is not these projects.

Instacart's CFO, Nick Giovanni, who previously worked with Goldman Sachs, has decided to depart from the position. Fidji Simo, CEO of Instacart, is replacing Giovanni with Emily Reuter, an Uber veteran, claiming her operational expertise will best drive the company's future. This reshuffle comes as Instacart's Q1 reports reveal only 8% revenue growth.

The travel services platform of Booking Holdings Inc. is the latest on the EU’s radar to enforce the Digital Markets Act, aimed at curbing competition abuses by tech companies before they occur. Companies designated as digital “gatekeepers” will have six months to comply with these preemptive regulations.

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