Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has reaffirmed the company’s commitment to its partnership with OpenAI, stating that Microsoft is comfortable with OpenAI’s non-profit governance structure and has no intention of increasing its control over the organization. Nadella’s comments come two months after OpenAI’s board controversially fired and then re-hired CEO Sam Altman in November.
Speaking at a Bloomberg News event at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Nadella emphasized the importance of stability in the partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI.
“What we just want is good stability; we invested, we partnered when they were whatever they were and whatever they are today — a capped-profit, nonprofit, what have you. So I’m comfortable. I have no issues with any structure.”
Microsoft’s role in OpenAI
Microsoft is OpenAI’s largest investor, having invested approximately $13 billion. Despite this substantial investment, Nadella clarified that Microsoft is not seeking a board seat in OpenAI. Instead, the company holds a non-voting board observer role.
Nadella also highlighted the mutually beneficial aspects of the partnership, explaining that Microsoft provides crucial technology to OpenAI for its products. Moreover, Microsoft is actively conducting its own AI research alongside OpenAI’s endeavors, demonstrating that the tech giant is not solely reliant on OpenAI for its AI development.
The firing and subsequent re-hiring of CEO Sam Altman by OpenAI’s board led to significant turmoil within the organization, with employees even threatening to leave and work for Microsoft.
However, Nadella expressed his contentment with the current situation and the partnership’s construct. He mentioned feeling “good” about their arrangement and confidently stated, “I feel at the same time very capable of controlling our own destiny.”
Competition authorities in the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom, and reportedly the United States have been examining Microsoft’s relationship with OpenAI on competition grounds.
Microsoft serves as OpenAI’s exclusive provider of the powerful cloud infrastructure required for its AI offerings. In return, the terms of their agreement reportedly guarantee Microsoft a significant share of OpenAI’s profits under specific conditions.
Nadella noted that the fact that OpenAI is not a subsidiary of Microsoft is a factor that fosters competition. He stated, “Partnerships are one avenue of, in fact, having competition.” Furthermore, he acknowledged that Microsoft’s substantial investments in OpenAI were a “highly risky bet” and defied conventional wisdom.