Microsoft is once again pouring money into OpenAI as part of an expanded partnership. The tech giant is making a “multibillion dollar” investment that will lead to wider uses of OpenAI’s technology, as well as stronger behind-the-scenes support. While the two companies are short on specifics, Microsoft says you can expect “new categories of digital experiences” that include both consumer-facing and business products. The developer-focused Azure OpenAI Service will play a role.
The continued union will also see Microsoft boost its investments in supercomputers that accelerate OpenAI’s research. Azure will remain OpenAI’s sole cloud provider for products, research and services. The exact size of the financial contribution isn’t known, but a Bloombergsource claims Microsoft is investing $10 billion over “multiple years.”
Microsoft first backed OpenAI in 2019, and returned in 2021. The New York Times notes it “quietly” invested an extra $2 billion since that initial round. The companies have grown closer since their collaboration began. On top of the Azure service, Microsoft has launched OpenAI-powered features that include natural language programming and a DALL-E 2 graphic design tool. OpenAI uses Microsoft’s infrastructure to train its best-known systems, including DALL-E 2 and the popular ChatGPT bot. ChatGPT is coming to Azure soon.
There’s no mention of some rumored developments, such as building ChatGPT into Bing. However, this expansion may help Microsoft seize a competitive advantage. Google reportedly sees ChatGPT as a threat to its search business, and is believed to be devoting much of its attention to a search chatbot and other AI products despite a reluctance to fully embrace the technology over concerns about copyright. Even if the deeper OpenAI partnership doesn’t improve Bing, Microsoft may benefit by forcing rivals like Google to change course.