Microsoft CEO Says AI Is a Tidal Wave as Big as the Internet

Microsoft CEO Says AI Is a Tidal Wave as Big as the Internet

(Bloomberg) — In 1995, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates sent a memo calling the internet a “tidal wave” that would be crucial to every part of the company’s business. Nearly two decades later, Microsoft’s current leader, Satya Nadella, said he believes the impact of artificial intelligence will be just as profound.

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“The Bill memo in 1995, it does feel like that to me,” Nadella said on this week’s episode of The Circuit With Emily Chang. “I think it’s as big.”

Central to the latest attempt to transform Microsoft is OpenAI Inc., a startup whose generative AI technology has created so much buzz that it snagged a $13 billion commitment from the software giant.

“We have a great relationship,” OpenAI Chief Executive Officer Sam Altman said on The Circuit. “These big, major partnerships between tech companies usually don’t work. This is an example of it working really well. We’re super grateful for it.”

The alliance has plenty of critics. The loudest is Elon Musk, who co-founded OpenAI with Altman and then split from the company, citing disagreements over its direction and the addition of a for-profit arm. He has said OpenAI is now “effectively controlled by Microsoft.”

In response to a question about Musk’s critiques and the prospect that Microsoft could acquire OpenAI, Altman said, “Company is not for sale. I don’t know how to be more clear than that.”

Just as Netscape inspired Gates’ internet memo, the creation of OpenAI, and Microsoft’s support of it, was spurred in part by the threat of Google dominating AI. The architecture for OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing chatbot, known as transformers, was invented by Google. Although Google remains competitive in AI, Microsoft and OpenAI are seen as the early leader.

Of course, after Gates’ edict, Microsoft’s web browser muscled Netscape out of the market and catalyzed a crippling antitrust lawsuit from the US government. In AI, Altman said OpenAI’s position is far from assured. “This is not only a competitive environment, but I think this is probably the most competitive environment in tech right now,” he said.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the company welcomes a discussion with governments about ensuring competition in AI continues. In the Circuit interview, Nadella cautioned that the true impact of AI remains to be seen.

“We in the tech industry are classic experts at overhyping everything,” the Microsoft CEO said. “What motivates me is I want to use this technology to truly do what I think at least all of us are in tech for, which is democratizing access to it.”

This episode of The Circuit With Emily Chang premieres Thursday, Aug. 17, at 8 p.m. in New York on the Bloomberg app and Bloomberg.com and on Bloomberg Television at 10 p.m. Check out The Circuit podcast for extended conversations.

–With assistance from Lauren Ellis.

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