I have, as you might expect, authored several versions of this Article, both in my head and on the page, as the most extraordinary weekend of my career has unfolded. To briefly summarize:
This is, quite obviously, a phenomenal outcome for Microsoft. The company already has a perpetual license to all OpenAI IP (short of artificial general intelligence), including source code and model weights; the question was whether it would have the talent to exploit that IP if OpenAI suffered the sort of talent drain that was threatened upon Altman and Brockman’s removal. Indeed they will, as a good portion of that talent seems likely to flow to Microsoft; you can make the case that Microsoft just acquired OpenAI for $0 and zero risk of an antitrust lawsuit.1
Microsoft’s gain, meanwhile, is OpenAI’s loss, which is dependent on the Redmond-based company for both money and compute: the work its employees will do on AI will either be Microsoft’s by virtue of that perpetual license, or Microsoft’s directly because said employees joined Altman’s team. OpenAI’s trump card is ChatGPT, which is well on its way to achieving the holy grail of tech — an at-scale consumer platform — but if the reporting this weekend is to be believed, OpenAI’s board may have already had second thoughts about the incentives ChapGPT placed on the company (more on this below).