In a surprising turn of events, Microsoft has hired former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and CTO Greg Brockman to lead a new advanced artificial intelligence research team. This news comes on the heels of Altman and Brockman’s sudden departures from OpenAI, the AI research company they co-founded in 2015.
Microsoft Announces New AI Team Led by Former OpenAI Leaders
Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella announced the new hires in a blog post, stating that Altman and Brockman, along with other OpenAI colleagues, will be joining Microsoft to “lead a new advanced AI research team.” This move seems to be a major bet by Microsoft on AI talent, even as its partnership with OpenAI remains ongoing.
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…
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023
Just last week, OpenAI confirmed that Altman would not be returning as CEO after his abrupt firing on Friday. There was an outpouring of support for Altman from OpenAI employees following the news.
However, negotiations for his return apparently broke down. OpenAI has since stated that Altman and Brockman will not be coming back and appointed Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear as the new CEO.
Microsoft’s Existing Partnership and Investment in OpenAI
Altman has largely stayed quiet since his firing, beyond thanking his OpenAI colleagues. But he confirmed his hiring on X (formally Twitter) by Microsoft, stating the “mission continues”. Nadella replied that he was “super excited” to have Altman leading this new group.
He mentioned that Microsoft has experience giving founders independence, citing GitHub and Mojang Studios as examples.
This is a surprising development given Microsoft’s existing partnership and investment into OpenAI. Microsoft has invested $13 billion into OpenAI’s for-profit arm and owns a 49% stake. The companies recently unveiled Copilot, an AI coding assistant powered by OpenAI’s technology.
However, OpenAI has an unusual corporate structure with distinct for-profit and non-profit entities. This impacts how Microsoft’s investment is allocated. With Microsoft now housing a major chunk of OpenAI’s former leadership and AI talent, it remains to be seen how the partnership evolves.
The Race for AI Talent
Artificial intelligence has become a major focus for leading technology companies like Microsoft, Google, Meta, and others. Large AI models like GPT-3 and DALL-E 2 have demonstrated new capabilities in generating human-like text, images, and more. Access to top AI researchers and engineers is highly coveted in this competitive landscape.
By hiring Altman, Brockman, and other former OpenAI staff, Microsoft is making a big bet on AI talent. The team of former OpenAI leaders could help accelerate Microsoft’s progress in AI, potentially powering new products and services leveraging advanced AI models. However, OpenAI’s capabilities may be diminished with the loss of its founding CEO and CTO.
Rapid Developments as AI Competition Heats Up
The story continues to develop rapidly. Altman’s firing, the failed negotiations for his return, and now his joining Microsoft alongside Brockman all happened within a few days.
With OpenAI getting a new CEO and Microsoft forming its own AI team, there are likely more surprises to come as this saga unfolds. The deals made between these leading AI players will shape the future development of artificial intelligence.