Google upgrades Bard Chatbot, adds premium option

US customers can subscribe for $1.99 a month to access Gemini Advanced, which includes a more powerful Ultra 1.0 AI model
A representational image. — Google Bard
A representational image. — Google Bard

Following the footsteps of new artificial intelligence (AI), Gemini, Alphabet-owned Google on Thursday renamed its Bard chatbot.

Google said the consumers can pay for better reasoning capabilities as it vies with Microsoft to win subscriptions.

Reuters reported that US customers can subscribe for $1.99 a month to access Gemini Advanced, which includes a more powerful Ultra 1.0 AI model.

The Alphabet’s subsidiary added that the subscribers will receive two terabytes of cloud storage that typically costs $9.99 monthly, and they will soon gain access to Gemini in Gmail and Google's productivity suite.

The Google One AI Premium Plan represents one of the company’s biggest answers yet to Microsoft and its partner OpenAI. It also shows growing competition among consumers, who now have several paid AI subscription options.

OpenAI's ChatGPT Plus a year ago pioneered the market for buying early access to AI models and other features, while Microsoft recently announced a competing subscription for AI in programmes such as Word and Excel. Both subscriptions cost $20 a month in the United States.

Product Lead Jack Krawczyk, in an interview, said cloud storage, Gmail and other integrations would put Google's subscription in harmony with how people work.

"When I pay $20 a month, access to a model alone is not enough," he said.

Krawczyk said the target market is people who want the most capable generative AI technology that can conjure new content on command and handle queries where no obvious answer exists online.

Google, hoping for another product with billions of users, will use its large base of Android phone customers to give it a leg up. The company said Android users can opt into Gemini as the default digital aide on their phones, accessing it through an app, the power button or by saying "Hey Google."

"When you do that, it presents one of the lowest friction ways in the world to access AI," Krawczyk said. Gemini is coming to the Google iPhone app as well, he added.

Gemini Advanced is available in English in 150 countries as of Thursday, Krawczyk said.

Gemini's smartphone rollout, starting in the US, will expand internationally next week to Asia-Pacific, Latin America and other regions with additional language support in Japanese and Korean, he said. Users get a two-month subscription trial at no cost.

As for the name change, Krawczyk said Google's AI approach had matured, bringing "the artist formerly known as Bard," into "the Gemini era."