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Cracks in AI Heaven? Microsoft Pivots to Databricks in Surprise Decision That Could Impact OpenAI
August 28, 2023 News


Written by: Martin Dale Bolima, Tech Journalist, AOPG.

Microsoft, according to a special report by The Information, is now planning to sell a new version of Databricks software that will enable customers to make Artificial Intelligence (AI) apps for their organisations.

This decision, in a vacuum, should not come as a surprise given the top-down pressure to adopt generative AI within organisations worldwide. However, the planned move might be mildly surprising in the context of Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI, which began back in 2019 when the former first invested USD $1 billion in the latter. Aside from its massive investment in the AI company, Microsoft has also acted as its de facto arms dealer, integrating it into Bing and Microsoft 365 and serving as OpenAI’s exclusive provider.

Pivoting From OpenAI to Databricks

Databricks, an AI-driven data analytics platform, offers AI software that allows companies to either build their own AI models or repurpose already available open-source models. This is the software that Microsoft is reportedly planning to sell through its Azure cloud-server unit and will essentially serve as an alternative to licencing OpenAI’s ChatGPT models.

Microsoft’s plans could prove detrimental to OpenAI, which remains in a continuous battle of sorts to win over trust in its proprietary AI offerings, especially after major companies such as Apple and Amazon had previously ditched ChatGPT. Its association with Microsoft, though, gave it a measure of legitimacy, to the extent that it has now become one of the foremost players in the AI sphere.

How OpenAI factors in on Microsoft’s pivot remains to be seen, although it should be noted that, according to the same report, the Azure-Databricks service Microsoft is planning to roll out is supposedly developing a chatbot similar to ChatGPT—and using OpenAI’s very own technology. The purpose of this chatbot, supposedly, is to assist non-experts in using Databricks’ software, which was originally developed for advanced data scientists.

Part of a Larger Play?

While Microsoft’s true endgame is subject to speculation at this point, the company’s latest plan appears on-brand regardless, as Microsoft has been investing heavily in AI. In fact, it recently increased its AI spending just last month, underscoring its commitment to the technology.

It even collaborated with IBM Consulting to help clients implement and scale Azure OpenAI Service and accelerate the deployment of generative AI. Incidentally, IBM’s is a competitor of OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4—and a formidable one at that.

Given these recent manoeuvrings, it will sure be interesting to see how things play out for Microsoft, Databricks, and OpenAI.