Try to keep up.
Today, the news is that Walmart is building a large GPU farm
to power its burgeoning artificial intelligence efforts in yet another move to stave off Amazon’s ongoing threat. There’s also a suggestion that Walmart wants to use OpenStack
to turn its physical stores into edge computing locations, which actually makes a lot of sense (oh, also in that last link: there’s a new OpenStack release out). This isn’t particularly surprising—Walmart built its own internal cloud technology years ago and open sourced it in part to lure others away from AWS—but it does speak to just how existential the Amazon threat has become.
It wasn’t so long ago that the story was about how Walmart had mastered analytics
to do everything from optimizing pricing to maximizing shelf space. Today, the story is about how Amazon is using machine learning and AI, not to mention its digital and logistics mastery, to help drive the nails into competitors’ coffins—including Walmart.
An optimist might say it’s an attempt by the two companies to give consumers a best-of-breed experience by combining the strengths of the two platforms. Alexa/Echo is ubiquitous (well, as much as any such device can be) and well connected to various other smart-home platforms. Cortana is present on Windows computers (which happen to be prevalent within large enterprises), tightly integrated with users’ calendars and contact lists, and probably better at search, directions, etc.
A cynic might say it’s an attempt by Amazon to keep its lead in this space, and Microsoft to increase its relevance, as Google, Apple
and Samsung all put the pedal to the metal with their own devices. As I wrote around CES time, Amazon and Google, especially, are trying to perfect that virtuous cycle
where device sales, cloud computing, developers, and data all feed each other and their respective companies’ bottom lines.
Sometimes, the enemy (who also happens to be your part-time enemy) of your enemy (who’s also enemies with some of your other enemies) really is your friend.