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Salesforce joins generative AI ranks with Einstein GPT

The CRM giant capitalizes on GPT 3.5 tech, weaving generative AI into code creation, Slack tools and customer interactions. The vendor also launched a $250M AI investment fund.

The CRM and CX giant joined the GPT fray by revealing it has incorporated generative AI technology into its Einstein AI system as Einstein GPT, which it integrated into its workplace collaboration platform Slack and will eventually aid users in other Salesforce platforms.

Salesforce, which has been under siege by activist shareholders in recent months, shared its plans as its two-day Trailblazer DX developer conference kicked off on Tuesday to also bring capabilities from Microsoft partner OpenAI's large language model GPT-3.5 AI to its service, sales, marketing and coding systems.

Competing for the smartest generative AI

The San Francisco-based vendor did not give a timetable for when Einstein with GPT-3.5 features will be live nor for when the generative AI technology that has spread quickly into other tech giants' platforms will be generally available in its various cloud-based systems.

Salesforce also revealed a new $250 million AI investment fund to support AI startups, which launched on Tuesday.

In November, OpenAI -- in which Microsoft is investing $10 billion -- lowered the generative AI drawbridge to the public with ChatGPT. There has since been growing pressure to capitalize on the powerful interactive chatbot's strengths, especially in enterprise applications.

OpenAI is Einstein GPT's official launch partner, said Clara Shih, Salesforce executive vice president and general manager of Service Cloud, at a media briefing. Customers can also use their own generative models at their discretion, she said.

In the CRM market, competitor Microsoft introduced on Monday new generative AI capabilities in a tool called Copilot for its CRM platform, Dynamics 365 -- Salesforce's chief CRM competitor.

CRM vendor Pegasystems also revealed last week upcoming generative AI-supported tools in Pega Infinity, its low-code CRM platform.

Safety first

While many tech titans are flexing their forthcoming AI capabilities, observers expressed caution about the risks involved in the nascent technology. They particularly focused on potential cybersecurity breaches that massive AI infusions into enterprise application systems could bring.

"Salesforce has to be careful, because enterprise customers – businesses -- usually are very sensitive about their customer data," said Gartner analyst Jason Wong. "They have to be clear on the data that's training Einstein GPT and how to make it secure and compliant."

Salesforce invested a lot with its Office of Ethical and Humane Use and thinking about how to use AI. I think what we'll see with Einstein GPT is a thoughtful approach.
Rebecca WettemannAnalyst, Valoir

But others see the vendor as having made a distinct effort to proceed safely and avoid some of the mishaps, accuracy errors and other problems that have plagued early LLM interactive chatbots, such as ChatGPT and Google Bard, said Valoir analyst Rebecca Wettemann.

"Salesforce invested a lot with its Office of Ethical and Humane Use and thinking about how to use AI," Wettemann said. "I think what we'll see with Einstein GPT is a thoughtful approach."

Einstein GPT uses a mix of Salesforce's proprietary AI and generative models from Salesforce's vetted partners, including OpenAI, according to the vendor.

Slack, which Salesforce acquired in 2021, also got an Einstein GPT revamp. The wisdom of the expensive $27.7 billion of Slack has been questioned by some activist investors. The GPT infusion could reinvigorate faith in the collaboration and messaging platform.

Einstein GPT for CRM applications will be launched within the Slack interface, Salesforce said.

"This could be a real opportunity to advance the value proposition of Slack," Wettemann said. "I think about that conversational interface as opposed to a data-entering interface and CRM."

Seeing GPT-3.5 in action

Salesforce lead developer advocate Stephan Chandler-Garcia gave a demonstration showing how Einstein GPT can provide basic, useful information by showing a fictional new account, "Outscape," that just signed on with the company.

In the demo, the user typed, "can you write me an overview of Outscape and include recent news," into the Einstein Assistant chat box on the right side of the screen. The Einstein Assistant replied with a succinct two-paragraph answer. Chandler-Garcia then prompted more specific information with further questioning.

Salesforce also showed a demo featuring a GPT 3.5-supported code-writing tool for developers that uses natural language prompts. It features autocomplete, "just like Google has when you're composing an email, typing a search," Chandler-Garcia said.

When he pressed enter, Einstein GPT instantly generated the code.

As for the new AI investment fund, "investing in educational programs that define the necessary skills to succeed in a world informed by generative AI is a big deal," said Opus Research analyst Dan Miller. "So is the investment fund for promising startups."

Mary Reines joined TechTarget Editorial in October 2022 as a news writer. She covers customer experience and unified communications technology. Before TechTarget, Reines worked for five years as arts editor at the Marblehead Reporter, her hometown newspaper. She received her bachelor's in journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she served as an assistant news editor for the student newspaper, The Daily Collegian.

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