Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (R) greets OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in San Francisco, California Image Credit: AFP

It’s the talk of the town as tech giant Microsoft vows to keep the flames of innovation burning, with CEO Satya Nadella teasing a sizzling future filled with AI surprises.

In a strategic and game-changing manoeuvre, Microsoft has unveiled the formation of a groundbreaking AI research team, led by former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman.

This announcement comes on the heels of Microsoft’s recent revelation about its proprietary AI chip, designed to train extensive language models and potentially reduce dependence on Nvidia, a move seen as pivotal in the tech giant’s quest for AI supremacy.

Who's Sam Altman, the AI whizkid?
• Sam Altman, 38, hails from St. Louis, Missouri
• Demonstrated an early interest in technology by learning programming and disassembling a Macintosh computer at the age of 8
• Attended Stanford University. Opted to drop out after one year in 2005
• Played a pivotal role in the success of OpenAI
• Previously served as the president of Y Combinator, a noted Silicon Valley startup accelerator
• Notable launches from Y Combinator include Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit, Stripe
• A geek, Atman is known to possess social and strategic intelligence
• Became a billionaire before joining OpenAI as one of its founders in 2015, brought on by Elon Musk

Altman to lead Microsoft AI

The new advanced AI research team will not only be spearheaded by Altman and Brockman but will also benefit from Microsoft’s innovative Arm-based CPU specifically crafted for cloud workloads.

These custom silicon chips are strategically engineered to empower Microsoft’s Azure data centres, showcasing a commitment to cutting-edge technology and self-sufficiency.

Altman’s abrupt departure from OpenAI, fuelled by a loss of confidence from the board, took an unexpected turn over the weekend as negotiations to bring him back failed.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella swiftly seized the opportunity to welcome Altman and Brockman into the fold, emphasising the company’s eagerness to provide the necessary resources for their success.

'The mission continues'

Nadella’s visionary leadership extends beyond the immediate integration of Altman and Brockman. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Altman acknowledged his new role at Microsoft with the message “the mission continues.”

Nadella, in response, hinted at giving founders the space to build independent identities and cultures within Microsoft, drawing parallels to successful precedents such as GitHub, Mojang Studios, and LinkedIn.

The move comes shortly after Emmett Shear, former Twitch CEO and co-founder, assumed the interim CEO position at OpenAI following failed negotiations. Altman’s connection with Microsoft, evident in the collaborative effort to refine and test the Maia AI chip, adds a layer of intrigue to this strategic shift.

While Microsoft downplays the chip’s impact on its Nvidia partnership, it is clear that the tech giant is invested in pioneering advancements, evident in the ongoing development of a second-generation Maia GPU.

Advancing the AI frontiers

Microsoft’s commitment to OpenAI remains robust, with a “multibillion dollar investment” and an exclusive cloud partnership.

The company, powering all OpenAI workloads across products, API services, and research, affirms its dedication to innovation and collaboration.

As Nadella expressed, Microsoft looks forward to working with OpenAI’s new leadership team, reinforcing its commitment to advancing the frontiers of artificial intelligence.