Alibaba announces massive investment in cloud computing

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      A Chinese ecommerce behemoth is hoping that it can seize a share of the cloud-computing market from U.S. tech giants Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

      Today, Alibaba announced that it will invest 200-billion yuan (CDN$39.9 billion) over the next three years in cloud infrastructure and technology.

      “The COVID-19 pandemic has posed additional stress on the overall economy across sectors, but it also steers us to put more focus on the digital economy,” Alibaba Cloud Intelligence president Jeff Zhang said in a company statement.

      Last month, Alibaba Cloud offered to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic by making video conferencing available for free in 11 languages to connect Chinese doctors and researchers with medical workers in several countries around the world.

      It also pledged to make available epidemic predictive models, a CT image analytics service for diagnosisis, and genome sequencing to those battling the novel coronavirus.

      On March 28, Alibaba Cloud announced that it had hosted the world's first successful livestream in 8K resolution. It was a three-minute broadcast from its Hangzhou headquarters to an Alibaba conference being held 1,300 kilometres away in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

      "The livestream delivered a definition of 33 million pixels per frame and a resolution of 7,680 by 4,320 pixels," the company stated. "That's double the pixels in 4K, which is the best-quality video currently in wide use, and about 16 times that of a typical high-definition video."

      Among Alibaba's holdings is the leading English-language paper in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post.

      Video: This two-year-old CNBC video tells the history of Alibaba.

      Alibaba Group relies on machine-learning

      The company was founded in 1999 by Chinese businessman Jack Ma and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014 in the world's largest initial public offering.

      Ming Zeng, dean of the Ma-cofounded Hupan School of Entrepreneurship, is author of the 2018 book What Alibaba's Success Reveals About the Future of Strategy, published by Harvard Business Review Press.

      In a 2018 article in the Harvard Business Review, Zeng outlined an approach that he called "smart business".

      According to Zeng, this is being employed by the world's seven leading tech giants, including Alibaba, due to "new capabilities in network coordination and data intelligence".

      This requires a great deal of computing power, but it also creates far more economically efficient and consumer-centric ecosystems.

      "Smart business emerges when all players involved in achieving a common business goal—retailing, for example, or ride sharing—are coordinated in an online network and use machine-learning technology to efficiently leverage data in real time," Zeng wrote. "This tech-enabled model, in which most operational decisions are made by machines, allows companies to adapt dynamically and rapidly to changing market conditions and customer preferences, gaining tremendous competitive advantage over traditional businesses."

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