The same day that Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella was outlining the company’s plans for artificial intelligence, Chinese tech giant Baidu announced it had poached one of the US firm’s former leading AI researchers. Industry veteran Qi Lu was previously in charge of Microsoft’s applications and services unit and helped to orchestrate the firm’s push into AI and bots before a bicycle accident led to his early exit from the company last September. Now, Lu is moving to Baidu where he’ll become the company’s new chief operating officer, overseeing all parts of the business as the search giant pushes further into AI.
“To achieve our goals, especially in artificial intelligence, which is a key strategic focus for the next decade, we will need to continue attracting the best global talent,” said Baidu CEO Robin Li in a statement. “With Dr. Lu on board, we are confident that our strategy will be executed smoothly and Baidu will become a world-class technology company and global leader in AI.”
Like Google, Baidu’s primary engine for growth so far has been advertising revenue, but the company wants to diversify its interests and profit drivers — especially as it faces growing competition in ads from rivals like Alibaba. In the past year or so, Baidu has launched a number of AI initiatives, including a medical chatbot, software for self-driving cars, and its own home robot assistant, named “Little Fish.” Lu says his ambition at Baidu is to help the company realize its “visionary AI strategy” and turn it into a “true global technology leader.”