• | 1:30 pm

Microsoft, Apple drop plans to join OpenAI board

Decisions come as Big Tech’s relationship with AI startups comes under the glare of regulators in the US and EU

Microsoft, Apple drop plans to join OpenAI board
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. will not have advisory roles on ChatGPT-maker OpenAI’s board as Big Tech’s dominating role in artificial intelligence (AI) startups comes under the glare of regulators in the US and Europe.

Microsoft, one of the largest investors in OpenAI, informed the Sam Altman-led firm that it will withdraw from its observer role on the board, Bloomberg reported. 

Apple, which was expected to take up a similar post, will not have any observer role on the board after Microsoft’s departure, the report said. 

However, OpenAI will have regular meetings for major investors and partners, which will be open to Apple and Microsoft, the Washington Post reported. 

“We look forward to continuing to receive feedback and advice from these key stakeholders,” OpenAI spokesperson Kayla Wood said. 

The announcement regarding Microsoft’s advisory role on OpenAI’s board was made after the dramatic firing and subsequent return of Altman in November last year. 

Altman was fired by the board, only to return later after public support by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who announced hiring Altman to lead an in-house AI lab.

Despite a massive investment of $13 billion, Microsoft did not have a seat on the board at the time. However, in a deal that ensured Altman’s return as CEO, Microsoft received a non-voting observer seat on OpenAI’s board. 

Both Microsoft and Apple have also worked to integrate OpenAI’s services to its platforms.

Apple has partnered with OpenAI to bring ChatGPT to iPhones, while Microsoft has integrated OpenAI’s services into its Windows and Copilot AI platforms. 

Regulators in the US and Europe had expressed concerns about Microsoft’s sway over OpenAI. 

In January, the US Federal Trade Commission announced that it issued orders to five Big Tech companies, including Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet Inc., requiring them to provide information regarding recent investments and partnerships involving generative AI companies and major cloud service providers.

EU regulators have also launched a probe into Big Tech’s partnerships with AI startups. EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager in March sent questionnaires to Microsoft, Google, Meta’s Facebook, and ByteDance’s TikTok as well as other big tech companies related to their AI partnerships.

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