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Is OpenAI's Sam Altman move a good thing for customers or Microsoft?

It seems Sam Altman might be joining Microsoft to work on their artificial intelligence technologies with maybe 500+ of his staff following him.  Is that really a good thing for customers wanting to get the most from AI technology. Microsoft actions over the last few days suggest it’s not the best move for them either.

UPDATE: from Tuesday evening it seems that Mr Altman will stay/return to OpenAI, presumably along with the 500+ unhappy staff. In our opinion, that’s the best result for both OpenAI and Microsoft customers and the companies themselves.

Sam Altman, the co-creator and public face of AI breakthrough’s ChatGPT and Dall-E has been booted out of the OpenAI, a company he helped make and develop.  After much drama, it seems he’s accepted a post at Microsoft with 500 angry OpenAI staff apparently eager to follow him to Microsoft HQ. The Guardian has a good explainer of the story so far.

The board of OpenAI have made a right mess of the situation and might earn a place in future MBA courses as an example of how not to run a board and handle senior management or staff.

You have to admire Microsoft’s speed and savvy by snapping up Mr Altman so quickly after his relationship with OpenAI’s board fell apart.  Not only the public face of ChatGPT but also apparently being followed by 500 OpenAI employees. It’s a corporate coup for Microsoft. They not only get much of the brains behind ChatGPT and Dall-E and it gives the company the appearance of being the AI technology leader.

OpenAI is better than Copilot

It all sounds great but OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Dall-E is much better than Microsoft’s Copilot. That’s surprising since Copilot is based on ChatGPT and Dall-E.  Microsoft owns 49% of OpenAI. It seems that Microsoft’s version of ChatGPT and Dall-E are more limited (crippled) compared to the OpenAI originals.  Copilot appears to be more restrictive and ‘risk adverse’. 

ChatGPT and Dall-E run from OpenAI’s web site give consistently better results than Copilot. That’s when Copilot accepts the request at all.

Like other staff ‘imported’ into Microsoft, Sam A. and his team will find themselves in a more constrained environment than the relatively free-wheeling OpenAI.

Us customers may become limited to one source for ChatGPT/Dall-E improvements instead of having options. At the moment we have a more conservative but integrated Microsoft offering or a more open and innovative AI from OpenAI.

Is this good for Microsoft?

Having all the ChatGPT/Dall-E brains under Microsoft’s roof isn’t necessarily the best thing for Microsoft either.  And it seems Microsoft knows that and tried to avoid hiring Sam Altman and others from OpenAI.

Maybe that’s why Microsoft reportedly tried to get Sam Altman reinstated at OpenAI before offering him a job.

With a more open, free-wheeling OpenAI exploring the edges of AI possibilities, Microsoft could sit back and pick up any bits of tech that suited them without as much risk or cost.

While most OpenAI staff are talking about moving with Sam Altman to Microsoft, you can bet they are being courted by other AI companies with deep pockets like Google and X/Twitter/Grok. Another reason why Microsoft preferred to keep OpenAI as it was.

OpenAI vs Copilot

Here’s two, admittedly trivial, examples from our own testing of both systems for the book Microsoft Designer: Straight Talk that show how OpenAI’s ChatGPT/Dall-E are better than Microsoft’s narrower version of the same technology

Koala driving a London Bus

Copilot offers this form the request “Koala driving a red London double-decker bus.

It’s not bad though none of the marsupials are in the driving position <g>. But look what happens when you ask for a photorealistic version – Copilot refuses.

No such trouble with Dall-E which makes a photo-like image and puts the koala behind the steering wheel.

ChatGPT is a better writer and poet

Compare Copilot and ChatGPT’s attempts at poetry for the same request.  ChatGPT’s response is better and more poetic than Copilot’s fairly bland effort.

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