Home / News / With an eye on AI, Amazon adds Andrew Ng to its board. Former MTV executive McGrath will step down

With an eye on AI, Amazon adds Andrew Ng to its board. Former MTV executive McGrath will step down

If what corporate boards of directors do can show where a company wants to focus, then Amazon’s board just did something interesting. Richard Ng, who is known for building AI at big tech companies, is joining the board of directors of the company, the company said Thursday. According to the company, Judy McGrath will be leaving her position as a director. She is best known for her long career as a TV executive, where she ran MTV and helped Viacom become a media giant.

When looked at together, the two moves paint an interesting picture of what the tech giant wants to do.

After spending a lot of money on building an entertainment empire (Amazon spent almost $19 billion on its music and video business in 2023), it’s interesting to see that McGrath isn’t going to run for reelection. He would have been a key supporter and adviser on that plan.

Not at all. Amazon will still be a huge player in streaming entertainment, whether it’s music, movies, games, or something else. The company is now putting ads on Prime Video, which is one big reason it might want to keep its customers happy and coming back.

Still, it will be interesting to see how 2024 investments in that area turn out. The company has fired hundreds of people from its studio and video divisions and has been shutting down Prime Video in some areas. This could mean that the company will be smaller in the future. And because every big tech company is dealing with AI whiplash right now, McGrath’s decision to leave the board now seems like the right one.

Amazon will try to get better thought leadership on the next steps in its artificial intelligence strategy if it wants to stay at the top of the tech industry.

It is important to remember that Amazon has been a leader in AI for a very long time. Its Alexa assistant and Echo devices helped make voice recognition and connected assistants famous. The company has been working on self-driving services for delivery by air and ground, as well as shopping in stores. It uses machine learning to improve how products are targeted. AWS is a big player in AI computing, and it has recently put billions of dollars into big AI startups.

Still, Amazon has been dealing with the idea (both inside and outside the company) that it is “falling behind” on the technology for at least a year now, since OpenAI’s GPT progress.

Is it real? Is it just how it looks? With or without Ng’s appointment, Amazon’s standing in the field of AI will only rise. The company will gain more thought leadership on real innovations in the field, rather than just making follow-on moves.

Ng’s appointment to the board could be a triple threat: He has worked in academia, investing, and building things by hand, and most of the time he has done all three at the same time. He is a general partner at a venture studio called AI Fund, heads the edtech company DeepLearning.AI, and started the computer vision startup Landing AI. He is also the chair of Coursera, which is another edtech company he started and used to lead.

Ng was also co-founder and CEO of Google Brain, the company’s first big attempt to build and use AI technology across all of its products. He was also chief scientist and vice president at Baidu, a Chinese search giant.

In its announcement, Amazon did not include any words from Ng. We’ve already talked to him, and we’ll let you know when and if we hear back.

It may seem like a new group of companies and thinkers are setting the pace in AI, but the Amazons of the world aren’t just sitting there.

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