This week in tech: Alphabet and Musk get in the AI ring; Coinbase triumphs

This week in tech: Alphabet and Musk get in the AI ring; Coinbase triumphs

By Louis Juricic and Sarina Isaacs — Here is your weekly Pro Recap on the biggest headlines out of tech this week: AI moves from Alphabet and Elon Musk; a Coinbase surge on a court win; and Salesforce’s price hike.

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Alphabet riding high on AI rollout

Alphabet (NASDAQ:) (NASDAQ:) stock bumped higher Thursday after it said it was rolling out its artificial-intelligence chatbot, Bard, in Europe and Brazil, as the tech giant looks to take the AI fight to rival ChatGPT.

Morgan Stanley said in a note that Google Search, which still makes up the bulk of Alphabet’s revenue, will likely become “more personalized” and develop “critical competitive moats” as the tech giant invests further in AI.

The analyst also said Alphabet remains “in the best position to disrupt/improve its own business” via AI, noting:

It is still early in AI adoption, and it will likely require new innovation and tools to further accelerate adoption. This, in our view, should help GOOGL manage the user and behavior transition and minimize near-term impacts on revenue and monetization.

GOOGL shares climbed more than 6% for the week to $125.42.

Elon Musk launches xAI

Elon Musk got in the AI battle as well with the launch of his xAI artificial intelligence outfit Wednesday.

Musk has repeatedly issued warnings regarding AI in the past, and signed a letter in March that called the scramble for AI dominance “an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.”

Musk said his plan for building safer AI includes rendering it “maximally curious” instead of attempting to program in morality, noting, “I think it is going to be pro-humanity from the standpoint that humanity is just much more interesting than not-humanity.”

In addition to this new role, Musk also famously leads Tesla (NASDAQ:), SpaceX, and Twitter.

Coinbase propels higher on court victory for Ripple Labs

Coinbase (NASDAQ:) shares soared Thursday after a federal court ruled that blockchain firm Ripple Labs did not violate federal securities law in selling its blockchain currency, , on public exchanges.

After the news, Needham & Company kept Coinbase’s Buy rating and raised its price target to $120 from the prior $70.

Needham said the summary judgment constituted “a positive read-through to COIN as it sets precedent that crypto token sales through exchanges, at least in the XRP case, did not violate securities laws. We believe this outcome should moderately de-risk the regulatory pressure on the stock.”

The analyst also provided a recap of the summary judgment:

1. Inst. sales (i.e. initial XRP token sales): granted the SEC’s motion that these sales violated securities laws.

2. Programmatic sales (secondary XRP sales on crypto exchanges): denied the SEC’s motion; these sales did not constitute an investment contract.

3. Other non-cash distributions: denied the SEC’s motion, these distributions did not have an exchange of money, thus did not qualify as an investment contract.

Research firm Berenberg, for its part, does not believe the rally is justified and argues that the ruling does not necessarily constitute a definitive victory for Coinbase. The firm maintained its Hold rating on the stock, as well as its $39 price target.

Coinbase shares finished the week up 33% to $105.31.

Analysts applaud Salesforce plan to raise prices

Salesforce (NYSE:) shares advanced Tuesday after the company said it would hike list prices on its products starting next month, noting that this was the first increase in seven years.

Specifically, the company will charge an average of 9% more for Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Industries and Tableau.

Evercore ISI believes the move is reasonable and could provide a potential tailwind for earnings:

While there will clearly be some complaints from customers about the price increase, after a 7 year hiatus, we believe that a 9% increase is pretty reasonable given that other SaaS companies have passed through annual increases in the 4-5% range.

Needham & Company meanwhile hiked the stock’s price target to $250 from the prior $230, arguing that the higher prices offer an “opportunity for top and bottom line benefit.”

After Salesforce’s roughly 4% climb on Tuesday, shares continued drifting higher and ultimately finished the week up 9.5% to $229.33.

Senad Karaahmetovic contributed to this report.

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