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  • Voltaire Staff

Google's early edge in AI triggered Microsoft's billion dollar dole to OpenAI, email reveals

It was an anticipation that Google may be getting ahead of it in the AI game that forced Microsoft to invest a billion dollar investment in a nascent OpenAI around 2019 an internal email has revealed.

The email exchange titled "Thoughts on OpenAI" between Microsoft's CTO Kevin Scott, CEO Satya Nadella, and co-founder Bill Gates sheds light on the high-level deliberations preceding Microsoft's partnership announcement with OpenAI.

The mail trail was disclosed on Tuesday as a component of the ongoing antitrust lawsuit by the US Justice Department against Google.

In an email Scott sent to Nadella and Gates, he wrote, "The thing that's interesting about what Open AI and Deep Mind and Google Brain are doing is the scale of their ambition, and how that ambition is driving everything from datacenter design to compute silicon to networks and distributed systems architectures to numerical optimizers, compiler, programming frameworks, and the high level abstractions that model developers have at their disposal."

 It added, "We are multiple years behind the competition in terms of machine learning scale."

Scott then went on to detail how it took six months for the Microsoft engineers to replicate Google’s BERT language model and get it trained because the company's "infrastructure wasn’t up to the task."

Initially, Scott admitted to being sceptical of AI initiatives at OpenAI and Google DeepMind, particularly during their competitive phase focused on achieving remarkable feats in game-playing.

His perspective, however, changed significantly as attention shifted towards advancements in natural language processing models.

Nadella reacted to Scott's insights on OpenAI by forwarding the email to Microsoft CFO Amy Hood, emphasising his determination to pursue the partnership.

Hood, a pivotal figure in Microsoft's senior leadership, holds the responsibility of managing the company's financial objectives and maintaining fiscal discipline.

Although Gates resigned from the Microsoft board, he remains significantly involved in Microsoft's continued collaboration with OpenAI.

The email does not specify the initiator of the OpenAI discussion in 2019. However, according to Business Insider, Gates has been meeting with OpenAI regularly since 2016 and played a pivotal role in facilitating the partnership deal.

With investments exceeding $13 billion now, Microsoft has significantly integrated OpenAI's models into its ecosystem, including Office apps, Bing search engine, Edge browser, and Windows operating system, reported the Verge.

Nadella has underscored AI and security as his top priorities for Microsoft in 2024 and beyond, indicating a continued acceleration in the integration of AI features across Microsoft products.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia 


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