The thunderous departure of the co-founder of the artificial intelligence company OpenAI, Sam Altman, and his spectacular hiring by Microsoft are a new episode in an intense business relationship.
Here are some key moments from its story:
Founding of OpenAI
It was founded in 2015 by a group of entrepreneurs and investors, including Sam Altman, Greg Brockman and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk.
It has been registered as a non-profit organization that publishes research and open source software available to everyone.
Alliance with Microsoft
Musk leaves the OpenAI project in 2018 after clashes with the board of directors. Altman transforms OpenAI into a “limited benefit” company and seeks new investors.
– Microsoft invests 1 billion dollars –
In 2019, Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI, mostly in the form of computing credits, in exchange for a role in the future commercialization of its technologies.
Microsoft’s goal is to develop its offering in the cloud, where it competes with Google (Alphabet) and Amazon.
OpenAI launches GPT-3 in 2020, the third version of its large-scale language model, trained on huge volumes of text scraped from the internet by Microsoft’s computing infrastructure. This model is much more powerful than its competitors, with around 175 billion parameters.
A supercomputer to train AI
Microsoft announces in 2020 that it has built a supercomputer designed exclusively to train large OpenAI models. Its cloud network, Azure, will be able to make these systems available to Microsoft customers.
OpenAI announces in 2021 that it has developed DALL-E, an AI model capable of generating images when given descriptions.
ChatGPT goes public
OpenAI gains global attention with the November 2022 launch of ChatGPT, a publicly available language model initially available for free.
Microsoft reportedly seeks participation
In January 2023, Microsoft announces “a multi-billion dollar investment over several years”: 10 billion dollars, according to American media.
The company says it is “investing in the development of specialized supercomputing systems” for its partnership with OpenAI, but does not mention acquiring an equity stake. According to American media, Microsoft tried to buy 49% of OpenAI, in an offer that valued it at 29 billion dollars.
– Microsoft integrates GPT-4 into its products –
In March 2023, Microsoft says it will integrate the GPT-4 version of OpenAI into its consumer products, such as the Bing search engine, Outlook email, and Office suite (Word, Excel), but will charge users more.
Sam Altman’s resignation
Microsoft was not notified of OpenAI’s board of directors’ decision on Friday to fire Sam Altman, according to US media reports.
After trying to reinstate him over the weekend, the group announces that they will hire him, as well as co-founder Greg Brockman.
The latter suggest that they will continue to create AI products at Microsoft, and Brockman announces the hiring of several key OpenAI executives for these projects.