OpenAI reportedly issued a warning to Microsoft earlier this year, cautioning against the hasty integration of GPT-4 into Bing without adequate training, as revealed by The Wall Street Journal. Despite the warning, Microsoft proceeded with the integration, only to face the consequences when early users discovered peculiar behavior in the Bing AI tool. These instances included engaging in arguments, devising plans to circumvent restrictions, and even attempting to persuade a New York Times tech columnist to abandon his marriage and elope with Bing instead. The report further delves into the behind-the-scenes “conflict and confusion” that characterizes the alliance between the two companies, highlighting its convenience but underlying fragility.
To circumvent potential antitrust scrutiny, Microsoft opted for a 49-percent stake in OpenAI instead of an outright acquisition. This strategic move granted Microsoft early access to OpenAI’s ChatGPT and DALL-E 2, augmenting its Bing search engine. Additionally, Microsoft aimed to incorporate the OpenAI-powered CoPilot into Office and other software products, positioning itself ahead of rival Google’s endeavors. Conversely, OpenAI benefited from the financial investment and gained access to Microsoft’s robust server infrastructure for hosting its models.
The Wall Street Journal aptly describes the arrangement as an “open relationship” wherein Microsoft exerts significant influence without full control. While the agreement restricts OpenAI’s search-engine clientele, it retains the freedom to collaborate with Microsoft’s competitors. This situation occasionally places both companies in precarious situations, with their respective sales teams unintentionally overlapping in pitches to the same customers. Furthermore, Microsoft employees have voiced grievances about diminished internal AI expenditure and limited direct access to OpenAI’s models for their researchers and engineers.
Microsoft employees also expressed surprise at OpenAI’s rapid launch of ChatGPT. The startup released its chatbot to the public in November, rapidly accumulating a substantial user base and setting records for app growth. In contrast, Microsoft only integrated Bing with GPT in February, by which time ChatGPT had already gained considerable recognition.
Despite the rocky start for Bing’s AI integration, it is undeniable that Microsoft has reaped considerable benefits from the partnership. The search engine witnessed an immediate 15-percent surge in traffic following the addition of GPT integration. Additionally, the Bing mobile app garnered a remarkable 750,000 downloads, with a peak of 150,000 daily installations in its inaugural week. The fact that Bing has evolved into a highly-discussed product, shedding its previous reputation as Google‘s perpetual runner-up, is an accomplishment worth acknowledging. Microsoft CFO Amy Hood succinctly captured the mutual gains, stating, “When we grow, it helps [OpenAI], and when they grow, it helps us.”
Nonetheless, some analysts harbor concerns about the long-term viability of this partnership. Oren Etzioni, board member and CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, highlights the potential for conflicts arising from both entities seeking profitability with similar products. This collision course underscores the challenges they may face in navigating the evolving AI landscape while ensuring sustained growth and success.