Google and Replit Join forces to challenge Microsoft in coding tools

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Replit, a cloud software development platform with 20 million users, announced on Tuesday a new strategic partnership with Google Cloud that will give its developers access to Google’s infrastructure, services and foundation models for generative AI.

The partnership will also allow Google Cloud and Workspace developers to use Replit’s collaborative code editing platform, which enables them to create and share applications online.

The partnership reflects Google Cloud’s commitment to building an open ecosystem for AI that is able to generate code. For Replit, the partnership is the next step toward its goal of empowering a billion software creators.

The announcement comes just one week after Github announced the launch of Copilot X, an upgraded version of its AI-driven software development platform that adopts the latest OpenAI GPT-4 model and expands Copilot’s capabilities, adding chat and voice features and allowing developers to get instant answers to questions about projects. 


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This sets up a battle between Microsoft (which owns GitHub and is a strategic investor in OpenAI) and Google to determine which company can provide the most attractive platform and tools for software developers. 

Creating and launching apps in seconds With Replit

Replit says its Ghostwriter application will use Google’s language models to suggest code blocks, complete programs and answer developers’ questions instantaneously. More than 30% of code written by developers using Ghostwriter is generated by AI, according to the company. The most advanced language models can generate full programs with simple prompts in natural language, enabling full websites to be created within minutes with no coding experience.

However, even the most powerful language models cannot run code themselves. Models that operate as stand-alone chatbots do not have context about a project. They require developers to copy and paste code from the development environment to the chat app, leading to inefficiencies. The models also do not know how to achieve a developer’s goal or run a program within the integrated development environment.

Until language models are integrated into development environments, the future envisioned by Replit’s chief executive, Amjad Masad, in which AI helps non-developers become developers, turns software engineers into hyper-productive “10X engineers” and enables 1,000X productivity for complex software, remains out of reach.

Google Docs for coding

Founded in San Francisco in 2016, Replit has quickly developed a dedicated user base as the “first fully online multiplayer computing environment.” The platform allows anyone to start coding without any downloads or setup. It resembles Google Docs, but for coding.

The platform supports more than 50 programming languages and enables users to build apps and websites through any browser and device (including mobile). It also facilitates collaboration and sharing of projects, as well as access to containers for running code.

While much of the attention is focused on flashy announcements such as GPT-4, Claude, and other chatbots that use AI to generate natural language, the integration of AI into software development platforms is quietly advancing and making it easier for novices to create applications. With Microsoft employing GPT-4 in its Github programming tools and Google collaborating with Replit, a start-up that offers an online coding platform, the competition is heating up to see who can provide the best environment for developers.

The future of software development may very well depend on how well AI can write code.

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