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What just happened? Microsoft has given up its observer seat on the OpenAI board, eight months after it took the spot following the ousting and quick return of CEO Sam Altman. It’s also been reported that Apple will not be taking a similar position. The news comes as regulators further scrutinize the relationship between tech giants and AI startups.

Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion into OpenAI, took a non-voting observer role on the company’s board in November after Sam Altman, who had been fired by the directors days earlier, returned under a new board.

The Redmond firm said in a letter to OpenAI that its withdrawal from the board would be “effective immediately.” It added that it has seen “significant progress” over the last eight months, is confident in the company’s direction, and no longer sees the seat as necessary.

Microsoft steps down from OpenAI board, Apple will not take observer seat

Sam Altman

“As you know, we accepted the non-voting board observer role at a time when OpenAI was in the process of rebuilding its board,” Microsoft said in the letter. “This position provided insights into the board’s activities without compromising its independence, and we appreciated the opportunity to serve as an observer during this period of change.”

Microsoft’s dealings with OpenAI have caught the attention of regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. The European Commission has warned Microsoft could face an antitrust investigation over its links to the ChatGPT maker, and the UK’s competition regulator is also looking at the tie-up. EU antitrust regulators recently confirmed, however, that the partnership would not be subject to merger rules as Microsoft does not control OpenAI, but they will be seeking third-party views on the agreement’s exclusivity clauses.

The US, meanwhile, is investigating whether Microsoft properly notified antitrust agencies about its deal with Inflection AI. It’s also looking into Microsoft’s alleged dominance of the AI market. Other tech giants, including Amazon and Google, are also under the FTC spotlight over their investments in generative AI startups.

Apple, which last month announced it was adding ChatGPT to its latest devices, will no longer be taking an observer role on the OpenAI board, something Cupertino was widely expected to do as part of its deal with the company.

As reported by Reuters, an OpenAI spokesperson said the firm will establish a new engagement approach by hosting regular stakeholder meetings with strategic partners such as Microsoft and Apple and investors such as Thrive Capital and Khosla Ventures.

[ For more curated Computing news, check out the main news page here]

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