Microsoft Departs OpenAI's Board

Microsoft Departs OpenAI's Board

Microsoft has given up its observer seat on OpenAI's board, just months after gaining the position during last year's leadership turmoil. The tech giant says it's now confident in OpenAI's direction and no longer needs the oversight role.

For context, last November, the AI community was shaken by the sudden firing of Sam Altman by OpenAI’s board. The resulting chaos saw Microsoft play a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in facilitating Altman’s return and restructuring the board. The turmoil led to a near-complete overhaul of OpenAI’s board, retaining only one previous member, Adam D’Angelo, and adding new faces like Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and recently, Paul Nakasone.

In a letter to OpenAI, Microsoft pointed to "significant progress" over the past eight months as the reason for its departure. "We no longer believe our limited role as an observer is necessary," the company stated. The letter also acknowledged the role of the observer seat in providing insights into the board's activities during a period of change.

In a statement, OpenAI responded to Microsoft’s decision with gratitude and optimism. “We’re grateful to Microsoft for voicing confidence in the Board and the direction of the company.”

In the wake of Microsoft's exit, OpenAI has also announced a shift in its approach to stakeholder engagement. Rather than observer board seats, the startup says it plans to now hold “regular stakeholder meetings to share progress on our mission and ensure stronger collaboration across safety and security.” This change also affects Apple, which had been rumored to be in line for a similar position following a recent partnership to integrate ChatGPT with Siri.

The departure of Microsoft and the decision not to have any more observers on OpenAI’s board come amid increasing scrutiny from antitrust regulators in the EU and the US. Both the European Commission and the Federal Trade Commission have been closely examining the partnerships between big tech companies and emerging AI players to prevent any undue influence that could stifle competition.

Microsoft’s substantial investment in OpenAI, reportedly around $13 billion, has been instrumental in propelling the company to the forefront of the generative AI race. However, as regulatory bodies intensify their scrutiny, Microsoft appears to be taking a cautious approach to avoid drawing further regulatory attention.

Chris McKay is the founder and chief editor of Maginative. His thought leadership in AI literacy and strategic AI adoption has been recognized by top academic institutions, media, and global brands.

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