Microsoft invests billions in ChatGPT maker



The Manila Times

Foreign Business

MICROSOFT announced on Monday that it was making a “multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment” in artificial intelligence (AI) startup OpenAI, maker of free writing tool ChatGPT. The tech giant described its new agreement as the third stage of a growing partnership with San Francisco-based OpenAI that began with a $1-billion investment in 2019. It didn’t disclose the amount for its latest investment. The partnership positions Microsoft to sharpen its competition with Google in commercializing new AI breakthroughs that could transform numerous professions, as well as the internet search business. Since its launch on November 30, ChatGPT has brought public attention to the possibilities of new AI advances. It’s part of a new generation of machinelearning systems that can converse, generate readable text on demand, and produce novel images and video based on what they’ve learned from a vast database of digital books, online writings and other media. Under the partnership, Microsoft would be able to capitalize on OpenAI’s technology. Microsoft’s supercomputers would help power the startup’s energyhungry AI systems, while the Redmond, Washington-based tech company would be able to further integrate OpenAI technology into Microsoft products. “In this next phase of our partnership,” customers who use Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform will have access to new AI tools to build and run their applications, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said in a statement. “There’s lots of ways that the models that OpenAI is building would be really appealing for Microsoft’s set of offerings,” said Rowan Curran, an analyst at market research firm Forrester. That could include helping to generate text and images for new slide presentations, or creating smarter word processors, he added. The technology could also help Microsoft’s own search engine, Bing, compete with Google in answering search queries with more complete answers instead of just links. OpenAI started as a nonprofit AI research company when it launched in December 2015. With Tesla CEO Elon Musk as its co-chairman and among its early investors, the organization’s stated aims were to “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.” That changed in 2018, when it incorporated a for-profit business Open AI LP, and shifted nearly all its staff into the business, not long after releasing its first generation of the GPT model for generating human-like paragraphs of readable text. Musk also left its board that year. OpenAI said in its statement announcing the deal on Monday that it would still be governed by its nonprofit arm and that it remained a “capped-profit” company, though it didn’t specify what limits it sets on its profits. “This structure allows us to raise the capital we need to fulfill our mission without sacrificing our core beliefs about broadly sharing benefits and the need to prioritize safety,” it said. OpenAI’s other products include the image-generator DALL-E, first released in 2021, the computer programming assistant Codex and the speech recognition tool Whisper. The investment announcement came a day before Microsoft was scheduled to report its earnings in the fourth quarter of 2022, and a week after disclosing plans to lay off 10,000 employees, or close to 5 percent of its global workforce.