Microsoft Offers Cloud Customers AMD Alternative to Nvidia AI Processors 

A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft offices in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, March 25, 2024. (Reuters)
A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft offices in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, March 25, 2024. (Reuters)
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Microsoft Offers Cloud Customers AMD Alternative to Nvidia AI Processors 

A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft offices in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, March 25, 2024. (Reuters)
A view shows a Microsoft logo at Microsoft offices in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, March 25, 2024. (Reuters)

Microsoft said on Thursday it plans to offer its cloud computing customers a platform of AMD artificial intelligence chips that will compete with components made by Nvidia, with details to be given at its Build developer conference next week.

It will also launch a preview of new Cobalt 100 custom processors at the conference.

Microsoft's clusters of Advanced Micro Devices' flagship MI300X AI chips will be sold through its Azure cloud computing service. They will give its customers an alternative to Nvidia's H100 family of powerful graphics processing units (GPUs) which dominate the data center chip market for AI but can be hard to obtain due to high demand.

To build AI models or run applications, companies typically must string together - or cluster - multiple GPUs because the data and computation will not fit on a single processor.

AMD, which expects $4 billion in AI chip revenue this year, has said the chips are powerful enough to train and run large AI models.

As well as Nvidia's top-shelf AI chips, Microsoft's cloud computing unit sells access to its own in-house AI chips called Maia.

Separately, the Cobalt 100 processors Microsoft plans to preview next week offer 40% better performance over other processors based on Arm Holdings' technology, the company said. Snowflake and others have begun to use them.

The Cobalt chips, which were announced in November, are being tested to power Teams, Microsoft's messaging tool for businesses, and positioned to compete with the in-house Graviton CPUs made by Amazon.com.



Apple Kills off Its Buy Now, Pay Later Service Barely a Year after Launch

An Apple logo adorns the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store on March 14, 2020, in New York. (AP)
An Apple logo adorns the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store on March 14, 2020, in New York. (AP)
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Apple Kills off Its Buy Now, Pay Later Service Barely a Year after Launch

An Apple logo adorns the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store on March 14, 2020, in New York. (AP)
An Apple logo adorns the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store on March 14, 2020, in New York. (AP)

Apple is discontinuing its buy now, pay later service known as Apple Pay Later barely a year after its initial launch in the US, and will rely on companies who already dominate the industry like Affirm and Klarna.

It's an acknowledgement from a company known for producing hit products that building a financial services business from scratch as Apple has been doing for several years is difficult and highly competitive.

Apple Pay Later launched with fanfare in March 2023 as a way for iPhone customers to split purchases of up to $1,000 into four equal payments with no fees or interest. The service was Apple's answer to the growing popularity of buy now, pay later services globally, and considered a sizeable threat to companies like Klarna, Affirm and others.

But Apple Pay Later was only available where Apple Pay was accepted whereas the other buy now, pay later companies had deeply integrated themselves into millions of merchant websites.

In an acknowledgement of how popular buy now, pay later services had become, Apple said at its developer's conference this month that it would start allowing banks to offer buy now, pay later plans to their customers through Apple Pay and Apple Wallet. Affirm would be integrated directly into Apple Wallet, and Apple customers would be able to open an Affirm account directly.

“With the introduction of this new global installment loan offering, we will no longer offer Apple Pay Later in the US,” Apple said late Monday. “Our focus continues to be on providing our users with access to easy, secure and private payment options with Apple Pay, and this solution will enable us to bring flexible payments to more users, in more places across the globe, in collaboration with Apple Pay enabled banks and lenders.”

Apple executives as recently as this month had indicated that the company still had plans for Apple Pay Later despite announcing plans to integrate Affirm directly into Apple Wallet.

Apple Pay Later was unique because Apple needed to create its own bank to offer the loans. The Apple Card is issued by Goldman Sachs, which means Goldman ultimately decides who gets approved and what spending limits are for each customer.

Apple has discontinued any new Apple Pay Later loans, but customers who have existing Apple Pay Later loans will be able to manage them inside Apple Pay.