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Microsoft recruits OpenAI’s ousted CEO Sam Altman to lead artificial intelligence team

Microsoft has unveiled its latest move in the realm of artificial intelligence, appointing Sam Altman to spearhead the company’s new internal AI team following his recent departure from OpenAI, ChatGPT‘s parent company. The decision, announced on Monday, is sourced from information reported by Bloomberg, marking a strategic effort to bolster Microsoft’s AI plans and reassure investors amid the ongoing transitions at OpenAI.

Greg Brockman, a former board member and co-founder of OpenAI who departed alongside Altman, will join forces with Altman in the new venture. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, expressed the company’s commitment to promptly equip Altman and Brockman with the necessary resources for their success. Nadella further highlighted Altman’s role as the CEO of the newly established internal group in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The shift comes amidst a tumultuous three-day period in the Microsoft-OpenAI relationship, with Microsoft’s attempts to reinstate Altman and Brockman at OpenAI thwarted. The OpenAI board appointed Emmett Shear, former head of Twitch, as CEO. Nadella expressed Microsoft’s eagerness to engage with Shear and collaborate under the evolving circumstances.

“Our commitment to our partnership with OpenAI remains steadfast. We maintain confidence in our product roadmap, innovation capabilities showcased at Microsoft Ignite, and our continuous support for clients and partners,” Nadella remarked on LinkedIn.

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Bloomberg reported that the Microsoft chief has strategically realigned the company’s product portfolio around OpenAI’s technology, having invested a staggering $13 billion in the startup, securing a substantial 49% stake, making Microsoft its largest shareholder by far.

However, Microsoft was caught off guard on Friday when the board abruptly ousted Altman, a close associate of Nadella. This sudden move led to a dip in Microsoft’s shares amid concerns that OpenAI’s turbulence might adversely impact Microsoft’s AI strategy. However, shares rebounded by as much as 2.7% in pre-market trading on Monday following Nadella’s announcement.

Executives at Microsoft were also surprised by Shear’s appointment on Sunday, having anticipated a potential reversal by the OpenAI board to reinstate Altman and Brockman, sources familiar with the company’s sentiments revealed, citing Bloomberg and requesting anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

The potential influx of former OpenAI employees into Microsoft remains uncertain. Nadella indicated that Altman and Brockman’s colleagues would follow suit. The challenge for Microsoft lies in balancing its ongoing commitment to OpenAI with its newly formed AI group led by Altman. Nadella cited LinkedIn and GitHub, companies owned by Microsoft, as examples operating with “independent identities and cultures,” each with its own CEO.

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Microsoft has been conducting AI research for over two decades. While its reliance on OpenAI’s technology and provision of vast computational resources has caused some internal tension among those working on AI projects internally, Altman and Brockman’s transition to Microsoft may prompt further concerns, with some long-time Microsoft AI employees having already left the company.

Read the updated Microsoft’s statement

“We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI’s new leadership team and working with them. And we’re extremely excited to share the news that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success.

Posted Nov. 17, 2023
As you saw at Microsoft Ignite this week, we’re continuing to rapidly innovate for this era of AI, with over 100 announcements across the full tech stack from AI systems, models, and tools in Azure, to Copilot. Most importantly, we’re committed to delivering all of this to our customers while building for the future. We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI with full access to everything we need to deliver on our innovation agenda and an exciting product roadmap; and remain committed to our partnership, and to Mira and the team. Together, we will continue to deliver the meaningful benefits of this technology to the world.”, writes chairman and CEO Satya Nadella.

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