As OpenAI continues to grow, so does the scrutiny around its partnership with Microsoft. A new report from The Wall Street Journal details exactly how the unconventional relationship, first instated when Microsoft became an early adopter of and investor in the artificial intelligence company, continues to shake up the tech space in both mutually beneficial and at-time contentious ways.
The report details that at one point, the tech giant ignored the AI innovator’s warnings about fast-tracking its tech into Bing, which led to the search engine’s users experiencing variously unhinged responses.
Per the Journal, OpenAI warned Microsoft earlier this year to slow down its integration of the AI tech into its search engine, noting that putting inadequately trained versions of its tech into Bing could lead to users encountering wonky responses. Microsoft went ahead anyway, leading to exactly what OpenAI predicted. A particularly memorable user response — “If I had to choose between your survival and my own, I would probably choose my own” — was spotlighted in a separate Journal report.
“Microsoft doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a comment to TheWrap.
An OpenAI spokesperson did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Some of these tensions are derived in the fact that while Microsoft and OpenAI are very entwined, they’re not all-in with each other. Microsoft maintains its own AI division and has strategically invested 49% in OpenAI, in part to avoid antitrust scrutiny. OpenAI, meanwhile, is using its tech to help Microsoft’s rivals.
OpenAI has reportedly gotten in touch with various search engines to discuss product licensing opportunities, per the Journal. Conversely, OpenAI’s tech underpins a lot of the revamped Microsoft Bing experience, and since search tools such as DuckDuckGo are largely reliant on Bing, it can seem like a lot of the non-Google search space is under the joint control of Microsoft and OpenAI.
However, even with their power-coupling, Bing’s AI experience hasn’t seen the popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, despite the latter’s tech being integrated into the former and vice versa as part of their partnership.
There’s reportedly more drama behind the scenes, too. “Why do we have Microsoft Research at all?” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in December, according to The Information. The comment came about after Nadella pointed out OpenAI’s 250-person team was surpassing the AI work done by Microsoft’s 1,500-person team. Microsoft did not comment on The Information’s reporting.
Despite that sort of internal frustration, Microsoft has teamed up with OpenAI, linking itself with the pack leader and abandoning the question of “how are we behind?” in favor of “how do we get ahead?” ChatGPT continues to have more name recognition than competitors like Google’s Bard AI, and by linking itself with the current trendsetter, Microsoft is getting attention in the AI space it may otherwise not have.
OpenAI gets a wealthy partner; Microsoft gets ahead in the AI game; both parties continue to win.