CIO SA tech news round-up: Twitter changes its name to X Corp, Alibaba to launch ChatGPT rival, and more

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Twitter renamed to X Corp after merger, Alibaba enters the AI race with the imminent launch of Tongyi Qianwen, a ChatGPT competitor, and Netstar and Vodacom Business introduce WiTaxi.

Twitter is now called X Corp

Twitter is no longer an autonomous company after a merger with a newly formed shell firm called X Corp, raising questions about Elon Musk’s plans for the social media network.

According to a 4 April document filed in a California court for a lawsuit brought against the firm and its former CEO, Jack Dorsey, last year by conservative activist Laura Loomer, Twitter “no longer exists” after being merged with X Corp.

It’s unclear what the shift implies for Twitter, which has undergone major changes since Musk purchased the company for $44 billion (R809 billion) last year. The billionaire owner has previously stated that acquiring Twitter would be an “accelerator” for the development of X, which he has branded an “everything app”. Musk announced the move on Tuesday with the single character “X”.

Elon Musk has announced his intentions to make X akin to China’s WeChat, a mega app owned by Tencent Holdings that is used for everything from payments to event ticket booking to messaging. However, he has been evasive about how it would fit into his vast economic empire, which includes Tesla and SpaceX. Musk also owns the domain X.com, which is the name of the online payments company he founded and later sold to PayPal.

Alibaba launches Tongyi Qianwen, a ChatGPT rival

This week, Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, unveiled its latest large language model, called Tongyi Qianwen. The new AI model will be integrated across Alibaba’s various businesses to improve user experience in the near future. The company’s customers and developers will have access to the model to create customised AI features in a cost-effective way.

Alibaba Cloud also announced lower cost options for key cloud products, including their elastic compute service (ECS) and object storage service (OSS), by introducing new ECS instances, OSS reserved capacity (OSS-RC) and OSS anywhere reserved capacity (OSS-ARC). The move will make computing more accessible and affordable for companies looking to unlock emerging opportunities in the new AI era in China.

“We are at a technological watershed moment driven by generative AI and cloud computing, and businesses across all sectors have started to embrace intelligence transformation to stay ahead of the game,” said Daniel Zhang, Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group and CEO of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence. “As a leading global cloud computing service provider, Alibaba Cloud is committed to making computing and AI services more accessible and inclusive for enterprises and developers, enabling them to uncover more insights, explore new business models for growth, and create more cutting-edge products and services for society.”

Tongyi Qianwen will also be integrated into all business applications across Alibaba’s ecosystem in the near future to further enhance user experience, from enterprise communication, intelligent voice assistance, e-commerce and search, to navigation and entertainment. With Chinese and English language capabilities, the model will first be deployed on DingTalk, Alibaba’s digital collaboration workplace and application development platform, and Tmall Genie, a provider of IoT-enabled smart home appliances.

“Generative AI powered by large language models is ushering in an unprecedented new phase. In this latest AI era, we can create additional value for our customers and broader communities through our resilient public cloud infrastructure and proven AI capabilities,” said Jingren Zhou, CTO of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

Netstar and Vodacom Business partner to launch WiTaxi, a free in-taxi connectivity service

Leading vehicle tracking and telematics provider Netstar, a subsidiary of Altron, is enabling taxi commuters across the country through the usage of WiTaxi, a free in-taxi connectivity service.

Passengers can use their personal devices to connect to free Wi-Fi throughout their daily commutes, converting typically lengthy journey time into productive time when commuters can get work done and even connect with family and friends. The in-transit connectivity also addresses safety issues for taxi owners, drivers, and commuters, reducing risk by mapping road hazards such as potholes, traffic, and accidents.

Bringing about the taxi of the future through this relationship is an extension of Vodacom’s mission of connecting South Africa's underserved and underbanked population, boosting connection for all. This collaboration is also an important step in closing the digital gap and empowering more South Africans through technology.

“South Africa’s taxi industry is responsible for more than 60 percent of daily commutes, making it an integral part of the country’s transport sector and a significant economic player,” says Netstar group managing director Grant Fraser. “We are truly excited about this partnership with WiTaxi and Vodacom and believe that the connected commute is going to be a game changer for South African taxi passengers, drivers and even operators.”

“This partnership speaks to how Vodacom Business can empower people through technology solutions that drive progress and inspire innovation,” says William Mzimba, chief officer for Vodacom Business.

The Netstar telematics systems used in Toyota minibus cabs can function as Wi-Fi routers. These devices have already been installed in more than 3,200 cabs across the country and have the ability to connect up to 48,000 taxis.

NetApp 2023 Cloud Complexity Report highlights the shifting demands of a multicloud environment

NetApp, a global, cloud-led, data-centric software company, has released the 2023 Cloud Complexity Report, a global survey that examines how technology decision-makers are navigating cloud requirements from digital transformation and AI initiatives, as well as the complexity of multicloud environments. According to the survey, 98 percent of senior IT leaders have been affected in some way by increased cloud complexity, potentially leading to poor IT performance, revenue loss, and hurdles to company growth.

“Our global research report highlights paradigm shifts in how technology leaders look at and manage their cloud initiatives,” said Ronen Schwartz, senior vice president and general manager, cloud storage, NetApp. “As cloud adoption accelerates and businesses innovate faster to compete, technology leaders are facing growing pressure to juggle multiple priorities at once – causing many to rethink how they manage efficiency and security in this new environment.”

“Our global survey data demonstrates the extreme complexity of modern IT environments, and the pressure technology executives are under to show measurable outcomes from cloud investments,” said Gabie Boko, chief marketing officer, NetApp. “At NetApp, we’ve simplified the complex through our approach, which enables technology executives to increase the speed of innovation, lower costs and improve consistency, flexibility and agility across on-premises and cloud environments.”

Both cloud and data complexity have reached a tipping point for businesses worldwide, and tech executives are under pressure to limit impact on the business. However, technological and organisational obstacles may stymie their cloud strategy, with 88 percent citing the inability to operate across cloud environments as a hurdle, and 32 percent struggling simply to align on a clear vision at the top level.

France, Spain, and Australia/New Zealand rank cybersecurity as their top concern globally, if data complexity is not managed. Concerns include leadership scepticism, inefficient use across the organisation, and a lack of visibility.

Tech executives see AI as a possible solution: more than a third (37 percent) expect AI-driven applications to support half or more of their cloud deployments in the coming year. While larger organisations lag, more than half of tech leaders at smaller companies (those with fewer than 250 people) expect that 50 percent of their cloud deployments will be supported by AI-driven application in the next year, and 63 percent by 2030.

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