Microsoft rose to dominance during the ’80s and ’90s thanks to the success of its Windows operating system running on Intel’s processors, a cosy relationship nicknamed “Wintel”. Now Microsoft hopes that another another hardware–software combo will help it recapture that success—and catch rivals Amazon and Google in the race to provide cutting-edge artificial intelligence through the cloud. Microsoft hopes to extend the popularity of its Azure cloud platform with a new kind of computer chip designed for the age of AI. Starting today, Microsoft is providing Azure customers with access to chips made by the British startup Graphcore. Graphcore, founded in Bristol, UK, in 2016, has attracted considerable attention among AI researchers—and several hundred million dollars in investment—on the promise that its chips will accelerate the computations required to make AI work. Until now it has not made the chips publicly available or shown the results of trials involving early testers. Unlike most chips used for AI, Graphcore’s processors were designed from scratch to support the calculations that help machines to recognize faces, understand speech, parse language, drive cars, and train robots. Graphcore expects it will appeal to companies running business-critical operations on AI, such as self-driving-car startups, trading firms,… Read full this story
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