Google Cloud Partners with Replit to Develop AI Coding Tools

Google has teamed with San Francisco startup Replit in a bid to challenge Microsoft’s GitHub and the Github Copilot code generator launched in conjunction with OpenAI. Under the new partnership, Replit developers will get access to Google Cloud infrastructure, services, and foundation models via Replit’s software development AI, called Ghostwriter, while Google Cloud and Workspace developers will get access to Replit’s collaborative code editing platform. Replit, which says 20 million developers use its platform, launched Ghostwriter in the fall and in January added a conversational AI interface for generating code and debugging.

Replit will now switch to Google’s foundation models on Vertex AI. Google “has much better technology than most people know,” Replit co-founder and CEO Amjad Masad told Bloomberg, an investor in Replit through Bloomberg Beta, a VC division of Bloomberg LP.

Since Masad and Haya Odeh launched Replit in 2016 the company has raised “more than $100 million and counts electronic payments company Stripe Inc. and e-commerce platform Shopify Inc. among its customers,” Bloomberg reports.

In an announcement, Replit said AI is changing software development. “For developers using Replit’s Ghostwriter coding AI, more than 30 percent of their code is generated by the AI app, Replit said, noting “the newest LLM chat apps can generate code for full programs with simple natural language prompts, enabling the creation of full websites with no coding experience in minutes.”

Microsoft and OpenAI launched GitHub Copilot in March 2022 to tap that market.

But AI isn’t a solution in itself. “Even powerful LLMs can’t run code themselves,” the Replit announcement explains. “Standalone chat LLMs do not have a project’s context. They require developers to copy and paste code from where they work to the chat app. This leads to inefficient switching of tabs and requires additional prompting. Even then, the separate chat app won’t have the richness of knowing where in the coding tool the developer can achieve their goal and run their program.”

Masad envisions a future in which “LLMs are brought into the integrated development environment itself.” While the industry is not there yet, Masad says AI can still help by:

  • Making non-developers into developers by turning natural language to code
  • Optimizing software engineer productivity by what Masad estimates is a factor of 10
  • Helping engineers code “complex-architected software in 1/1000th the time”

“Replit’s Ghostwriter application will use Google’s language models to suggest code blocks, complete programs and answer developers’ questions,” writes MediaPost. Google Cloud VP June Yang told Bloomberg the Alphabet company “plans to partner with other AI coding tools besides Replit.”

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