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Microsoft turns up its chatbot stake

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Microsoft has confirmed that it will increase its stake in the developer behind the advanced ChatGPT chatbot through a “multi-year, multibillion-dollar investment”.

The company was said this month to be preparing to invest $10 billion in OpenAI, which caused a sensation in November by releasing its artificial intelligence bot. It had already invested $1 billion in 2019.

Microsoft said it would invest billions of dollars in the San Francisco-based developer, but declined to be more specific about the total sum or to provide further details around the deal.

OpenAI’s valuation on the private market has been mooted at as much as $29 billion.

“We formed our partnership with OpenAI around a shared ambition to responsibly advance cutting-edge AI research and democratise AI as a new technology platform,” Satya Nadella, chairman and chief executive of Microsoft, said.

“In this next phase of our partnership, developers and organisations across industries will have access to the best AI infrastructure, models and toolchain with Azure [cloud computing] to build and run their applications.”

Sam Altman, chief executive of OpenAI, said: “Microsoft shares our values and we are excited to continue our independent research and to work toward creating advanced AI that benefits everyone.”

ChatGPT impressed users with its ability to swiftly offer detailed answers to questions, coherently summarising publicly available information, and attracted a million users days after its launch. Bullish analysts have suggested that the tool could revolutionise the online search industry. Microsoft is widely expected to integrate the technology into its Bing search engine.

OpenAI was founded seven years ago as a non-profit research institute focused on ensuring that artificial general intelligence — autonomous technologies that “think” like humans — could be created safely for the benefit of all. It created a for-profit division in 2019. Elon Musk was one of its founders but departed in 2018, citing a conflict with his AI work at Tesla.

Microsoft and OpenAI, which is also behind Dall·E 2, an image generation tool that creates pictures from users’ words, will concentrate on “supercomputing at scale”, the companies said, and rolling out new AI-based technology across Microsoft’s products.

Microsoft’s Azure business will be OpenAI’s exclusive cloud computing provider. Microsoft shares rose by $2.36, or 1 per cent, to close at $242.58 in New York last night.

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