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Google’s Bard is now Gemini — and its top AI assistant will cost you


SAN FRANCISCO — Google will begin selling access to its most advanced artificial intelligence model, following the example of smaller competitors such as ChatGPT-maker OpenAI, and signaling its intention to put the technology into the hands of more consumers.

Google will charge $20 a month for its “Gemini Advanced” AI model, selling it as a new, premium tier of its cloud storage subscription, which nearly 100 million people already pay $2 to $10 a month for. Gemini will be available Thursday in a new stand-alone app on Android phones, as part of the Google app on iPhones and on the web. It will also be available in other Google products like Gmail and Docs soon, the company said.

The price point mimics OpenAI’s $20 a month “GPT Plus” subscription, as well as the plan offered by upstart AI search company Perplexity, which also charges $20 a month for the most capable version of its app that it hopes will become a competitor to Google search. Gemini will replace Google’s previous name for its AI assistant, Bard.

Tech companies are racing to improve the capabilities of their AI assistants, envisioning a world where chatbots help people do most of their online tasks. “It’s a super-important first step toward building a true AI assistant,” said Sissie Hsiao, vice president and general manager of Google Assistant and Gemini.

Even as huge questions remain over AI chatbot tech — such as whether it breaks copyright laws, is bad for democracy or enhances fraud — companies are rushing to sell it to consumers. Companies are eager to stake out a market position, hoping that being early will help them make huge amounts of money if AI continues to become a bigger part of how people use the internet and technology. Many of the products companies are releasing are not ready for prime time — for instance, all chatbots still make up false information sometimes, a problem no one has solved yet.

Such problems haven’t stopped the companies from moving ahead. Google, whose researchers devised many of the scientific advances on which the current crop of AI products are built, has struggled to keep up with OpenAI, its business partner Microsoft and even small start-ups, in turning AI into something that can be sold. When it first announced Gemini in December 2023, the company didn’t disclose that a demo video was actually heavily edited to make the AI look more capable than it really was.

Investors have criticized Google for apparently losing the lead it once held in AI. The Thursday announcement shows Google is beginning to figure out its new AI business model.

Before, the company layered its AI into its products behind the scenes, but ever since the explosive interest in chatbots, the company has begun putting its AI tech more in the forefront.

By making a dedicated Gemini app for the Android phone, the company is leveraging its massive footprint in mobile phones — far more people around the world have Android phones than ones running Apple’s iOS — to try to get its AI tools to more people.

“You can expect these new capabilities to be part of the way we present these products to consumers,” said Chris Pappas, a Google spokesman.

Apple has said it is working to improve its own AI capabilities, but investors and analysts have questioned whether the company is moving fast enough to keep up with Microsoft, OpenAI and Google. Apple’s Siri assistant has steadily advanced over the years but still doesn’t have the capabilities of modern “large language models” — the tech behind ChatGPT and Gemini.

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