Of course, that was what he said in September. With top talent now jumping ship, OpenAI’s future is far less certain than it was.
What next for Microsoft?
The tech giant, and its CEO Satya Nadella, seem to have emerged from the crisis as the winners. With Altman, Brockman, and likely many more top people from OpenAI joining its ranks—or even the majority of the company, if today’s open letter from 500 OpenAI employees is to be believed—Microsoft has managed to concentrate its power in AI further. The company has the most to gain from embedding generative AI into its less sexy but very profitable productivity and developer tools.
The big question remains how necessary Microsoft will deem its expensive partnership with OpenAI to create cutting-edge tech in the first place. In a post on X announcing how “extremely excited” he was to have hired Altman and Brockman, Nadella said his company remains “committed” to OpenAI and its product road map.
But let’s be real. In an exclusive interview with MIT Technology Review, Nadella called the two companies “codependent.” “They depend on us to build the best systems; we depend on them to build the best models, and we go to market together,” Nadella told our editor in chief, Mat Honan, last week. If OpenAI’s leadership roulette and talent exodus slows down its product pipeline, or leads to AI models less impressive than those it can build itself, Microsoft will have zero problems ditching the startup.
What next for AI?
Nobody outside the inner circle of Sutskever and the OpenAI board saw this coming—not Microsoft, not other investors, not the tech community as a whole. It has rocked the industry, says Amir Ghavi, a lawyer at the firm Fried Frank, which represents a number of generative AI companies, including Stability AI: “As a friend in the industry said, ‘I definitely didn’t have this on my bingo card.’”
It remains to be seen whether Altman and Brockman make something new at Microsoft or leave to start a new company themselves down the line. The pair are two of the best-connected people in VC funding circles, and Altman, especially, is seen by many as one of the best CEOs in the industry. They will have big names with deep pockets lining up to support whatever they want to do next. Who the money comes from could shape the future of AI. Ghavi suggests that potential backers could be anyone from Mohammed bin Salman to Jeff Bezos.