Microsoft hires former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman

Microsoft hires Sam Altman, former OpenAI CEO and co-founder Greg Brockman.

Altman was fired from OpenAI Friday, after the board said it “no longer has confidence in his ability to continue to lead OpenAI.” After a weekend of negotiations to potentially bring Altman back to OpenAI, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman will join to lead Microsoft’s new advanced AI research team.

“We are extremely pleased to announce that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, along with their colleagues, will join Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team,” says Nadella. “We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources they need to succeed.” »

In an article on (formerly Twitter), Altman acknowledged he was joining Microsoft by reposting Nadella with the message “the mission continues.” Nadella replied giving some insight into how he sees Altman’s role at Microsoft. “We’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give founders and innovators space to build independent identities and cultures within Microsoft, including GitHub, Mojang Studios, and LinkedIn, and I can’t wait for you to likewise.

Altman’s hiring comes just hours after negotiations with OpenAI’s board failed to bring him back as OpenAI CEO. Instead, the former CEO and co-founder of Twitch Emmett Shear named interim CEOaccording to a source speaking to The edge. He will succeed Mira Murati, who was named interim CEO of OpenAI following Altman’s surprise firing on Friday. OpenAI has not confirmed Shear’s appointment, but given Microsoft’s hiring of Altman, it is not far from announcing a new leadership structure.

Altman had negotiated to return as CEO of OpenAI, but OpenAI’s four-person board refused to resign and let him return, according to several sources talk to The edge. It reportedly recently pitched investors for a separate startup to create custom AI Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) chips, rivaling Nvidia, according to The New York Times. The TPU project was codenamed “Tigris”. attracting a number of leading venture capital firms and even the interest of Microsoft.

Microsoft has now formed a new advanced AI research team, led by Altman and Brockman. This comes just a week after Microsoft announced that it had built its own custom AI chip which can be used to train large language models and potentially avoid costly dependence on Nvidia. Microsoft has also built its own Arm-based processor for cloud workloads. The two custom silicon chips are designed to power its Azure data centers.

Microsoft’s new custom AI chip.
Image: Microsoft

Altman and OpenAI worked with Microsoft to refine and test the Maia AI chip. Microsoft was quick to downplay the chip’s impact on its close partnership with Nvidia, but the Maia GPU is part of a series and the company is already working on a second generation.

Microsoft still has a “multi-billion dollar investment» in OpenAI, whose value is estimated at around $10 billion. Microsoft is OpenAI’s exclusive cloud partner, and Microsoft cloud services power all OpenAI workloads across products, API services, and research.

“We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and are confident in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and to continue supporting our customers and partners,” said Nadella in his press release. “We look forward to getting to know and working with Emmett Shear and the new OAI leadership team.

Updated, November 20 at 3:28 a.m. ET: Article updated with additional details from Satya Nadella on Altman’s hiring.

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