Can Google Cloud realistically challenge GitHub Copilot with its Replit partnership?
Replit’s 20 million-strong developer base brings “added leverage and an established community” which could challenge Microsoft’s dominance
Google Cloud has partnered with Replit to create generative AI applications which will help the coding platform to build “bigger and faster”.
Without mentioning it specifically, the partnership appears to be a sign of Google trying to chase Microsoft's heels as its Copilot-branded AI technology seeps deeper into its product line.
Copilot was first introduced to GitHub in 2021 as an AI pair programming assistant and quickly gained wide popularity among software developers for its ability to augment and hasten application and web development processes.
Google has also been playing a game of catchup with Microsoft ever since the latter announced its $10 billion investment into OpenAI, shortly after ChatGPT took off. Google was forced to down tools, upend internal teams, and declare a 'code red' situation to counter the threat posed by Microsoft's rapid expansion into the generative AI space.
It launched Bard, Google's own generative AI to rival ChatGPT, but its launch was fraught with flaws and ultimately rushed to simply be part of the conversation.
Now, with its latest partnership, the 20 million developers on Replit's platform will be able to deploy and scale their applications on Google Cloud, while benefitting from Replit's own AI pair programmer, Ghostwriter.
“Our partnership with Google Cloud on infrastructure and AI is a clear step toward our mission of bringing the next billion software creators online. AI has changed software development forever. The seamless idea-to-deployed software experience that Replit provides developers will continue to set a new bar for software creation,” said Amjad Masad, the CEO and head of engineering at Replit. “We’re thrilled to build this.”
Ghostwriter currently generates over 30% of the code for developers who use Replit, a similar figure to GitHub Copilot which by the company's estimates generates 46% of the code across projects on the platform.
Replit's developers will have access to Google’s infrastructure as well as its foundation models on Vertex AI. The two companies are aiming to accelerate developers’ AI development process through the partnership.
Ghostwriter was launched in 2022 and fully integrated into Replit's browser-based integrated development environment (IDE) in January 2023.
Like Copilot, Ghostwriter offers similar code-debugging and error-solving capabilities delivered through a natural language processing (NLP) prompt.
But with Copilot already amassing a significant user base and having been in development for longer than Ghostwriter, not to mention being integrated into the world's leading version control platform, does Ghostwriter have a realistic chance shot at taking on Copilot and succeeding?
Bola Rotibi, chief of enterprise research at CCS Insight, told ITPro that the partnership was a "necessary" one and that despite GitHub's market dominance, Replit's large user base could mean it will be a serious force in the future.
“In this light, Google and Replit’s partnership can be seen as a necessary move and hook up in the face of Microsoft’s developer community dominance and the launch of GitHub Copilot which is served by OpenAI’s LLM ChatGPT,” she said. “Replit’s supposed 20 million developer base brings added leverage and an established community to Google’s cloud platform services: now that alone can’t be sniffed at.
“The Google and Replit partnership is in direct competition with Copilot and expect this to be just the start of this embedded new capability in the drive to deliver application code faster, with improved quality that raises the productivity of the development process and developers,” said Rotibi.
Rotibi called this the “next stage of this evolutionary thread”, citing the news that GitHub has released Copilot X, which will see it adopt OpenAI’s GPT-4 model to introduce chat and voice for Copilot across the whole application lifecycle process.
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Replit and Google may have serious potential in this market, but that does nothing to dampen the fact that GitHub got in first, and that its Copilot user base is both huge and devoted.
ITPro attended GitHub Universe in 2022 and Copilot, over a year after launch, remained the talk of the event. And the tool is only getting stronger with each passing iteration.
What's undeniable is that Replit and Google have a mountain to climb, but they do have pedigree and a great platform to build from.
Copilot is adored in the developer community, but it isn't perfect. This is one area in which the pair could target, perhaps aiming to become the most accurate solution, the one that supports the largest number of programming languages, or the one that can generate the most complex solutions - something with which Copilot can, at times, struggle.
If Replit and Google's technology can target Copilot's weaknesses and become a trusted companion for developers on specific tasks, as well as build a comparably powerful and easy-to-use product, then with time, it has serious potential to claim some of Copilot's majority market share. But, for now, I wouldn't expect Copilot to be too fearful.
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Zach Marzouk is a staff writer for IT Pro, Cloud Pro, and Channel Pro where he writes news articles and in-depth feature pieces primarily focused on Asia Pacific and the US. Aside from covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, he also contributes to the IT Pro podcast and IT Pro 20/20.
After studying an undergraduate degree in Arabic and Spanish at the University of Leeds, Zach completed a journalism internship at The Argentina Independent in Buenos Aires where he wrote about the country’s history, politics, and technology.
He then joined IT Pro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to IT Pro as a staff writer during the pandemic.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find Zach’s thoughts (and more) on Twitter @ZachMarzouk
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