Tech Transformers

Alibaba is using AI to take on Amazon, Microsoft

Alibaba's cloud-computing arm, Aliyun, has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that it is billing as "China's first," as it looks to boost its cloud offering to compete with Microsoft and Amazon.

The AI platform, called DT PAI, will allows developers and companies using Alibaba's e-commerce sites, for example, to analyze massive amounts of data in order to predict user behavior as well as industry trends.

This could help inform companies about which products to launch, what customers like and how to target individual users with products.

As the platform grows more advanced, Alibaba said shoppers would even be able to photograph an outfit they see on a stranger and be immediately taken to a page where they can purchase that item of clothing.

Cloud wars

Alibaba has been focusing heavily on its cloud division as it looks to diversify its business. In the second quarter of 2015, Alibaba's revenue from cloud computing and Internet infrastructure grew 106 percent year-on-year, according to its latest earnings statement.

The Chinese e-commerce giant last week chose Singapore as the site for its new data center, as well as its international cloud division headquarters, as it looks to increase its strength in Asia.

Andrzej Wojcicki | Science Photo Library | Getty Images

Alibaba is betting that its ploy to help international companies sell into China via its cloud division will give it an edge over U.S. rivals Amazon and Microsoft.

AI is in its infancy and Alibaba is not the only cloud provider to have introduced a platform.

Earlier this year, Amazon Web Services, the e-commerce titan's cloud division, launched an AI platform and Microsoft's Azure cloud unit also features predictive analytics tools.

AI for all?

Aliyun said that the DT PAI platform will have pre-written alogrithms that mean users will just need to "drag and drop" to create apps. Alibaba said this should open up the use of AI to many people, because it removes the need to write complex code. For example, if a user wanted to build an app that looks to predict trends, this algorithm will be written by Alibaba.

"In the past, the field of artificial intelligence was only open to a very small number of qualified developers and required the use of specialized tools," Xiao Wei, senior product expert at Aliyun, said in a statement.

"However, DT PAI allows developers will little or no experience in the field to construct a data application from scratch in a much shorter period of time. What used to take days can be completed within minutes."

The first public trial of Aliyun's AI platform will take place "within weeks" and users will be invited to the trial.