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Microsoft’s billion-dollar OpenAI funding was trigged by Google fears, emails reveal

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Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI in 2019 as a result of it was “very frightened” that Google was years forward in scaling up its AI efforts. An inside electronic mail, titled “Ideas on OpenAI,” between Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott, CEO Satya Nadella, and co-founder Invoice Gates reveals among the high-level discussions round an funding alternative within the months earlier than Microsoft revealed the partnership.

The e-mail was launched on Tuesday as a part of the continued US Justice Division antitrust case towards Google, Business Insider reports.

“We’re a number of years behind the competitors by way of machine studying scale,” Scott writes in his June twelfth, 2019, electronic mail to Nadella and Gates. He particulars the way it took six months for Microsoft engineers to copy Google’s BERT language mannequin and get it educated “as a result of our infrastructure wasn’t as much as the duty.”

Microsoft was impressed by Google’s early use of AI

Scott says he was initially dismissive of AI efforts at OpenAI and Google DeepMind when the businesses had been competing to see who “might obtain essentially the most spectacular game-playing stunt” — a transparent reference to Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo Zero demos. Scott rapidly grew to become extra impressed when issues moved towards pure language processing fashions. “As I dug in to attempt to perceive the place all the functionality gaps had been between Google and us for mannequin coaching, I obtained very, very frightened,” Scott wrote.

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A few of Google’s early AI fashions helped it have a aggressive benefit towards Bing, stated Scott, and he even praised Google’s autocomplete options in Gmail that had been “getting scarily good” in 2019.

Nadella responded to Scott’s ideas on OpenAI by forwarding it to Microsoft CFO Amy Hood, noting that that is “why I need to do that.” Hood is a key member of Microsoft’s senior management staff and is tasked with overseeing the corporate’s monetary targets and frequently retaining Microsoft’s spending in verify.

The e-mail thread, which you’ll be able to learn beneath, is closely redacted and seems to be a reply to both Nadella or Gates. Whereas Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board in 2020 amid an investigation into an affair with an worker, he’s reportedly nonetheless been a giant a part of Microsoft’s ongoing relationship with OpenAI. It’s not clear from this inside electronic mail who initiated the dialogue about OpenAI in 2019, however Business Insider reported earlier this week that Gates had been frequently assembly with OpenAI since 2016 and helped dealer the deal.

Microsoft has now invested greater than $13 billion in OpenAI, including its fashions to Workplace apps, its Bing search engine, Edge, and even inside its Home windows working system. It has helped Microsoft be seen as extra of a frontrunner in AI, as a substitute of falling behind because it as soon as feared 5 years in the past. Nadella additionally not too long ago made AI and safety his prime two areas of focus for Microsoft in 2024 and past, signaling that the rollout of AI options in Microsoft merchandise isn’t about to decelerate.

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