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Baidu CEO Robin Li has announced that the company’s ChatGPT-rival Ernie has amassed over 200 million users.

Ernie has also accumulated around 85,000 enterprise clients, according to Li. 

China’s GenAI programs and service offerings have lagged behind the West. Unlike the rest of the world, Chinese companies must seek government approval before releasing GenAI products. 

In March 2023, Ernie was the first ChatGPT-like chatbot to be announced in China but did not gain approval until August, making it the eighth chatbot to be released in the country. 

Li told analysts in February that the company had begun to generate revenue from Ernie.

“In 2024, we expect AI revenues contribution to become more meaningful, while our core business will remain resilient,” Li said in February.

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In January, The Information reported that ChatGPT maker OpenAI brought in $1.6bn in annualised revenue. The number is a significant increase from the $28m OpenAI made in 2022.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT offers a subscription and enterprise service for a monthly fee.

Last year, Chinese search engine giant Baidu claimed that Ernie outperformed OpenAI’s ChatGPT in a series of tests. 

Ernie’s 3.5 model exceeded “ChatGPT in comprehensive ability scores”, Baidu said in a statement at the time.

Baidu pointed to a test run by the China Science Daily newspaper, which ran tests using AGIEval and C-Eval – metrics used to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of AI models.