Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar partnership with ChatGPT maker OpenAI could face an investigation by the UK competition regulator.
The tech giant is a major investor and strengthened ties after the wildly successful launch of the chatbot in November 2022which commits to an additional 10 billion $ (£7.9bn) earlier this year.
It is reported to own a 49% stake the companywhich is at the forefront of the development of artificial intelligence.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) wants to investigate whether the partnership has led to a takeover of control, whether a de facto merger has taken place and whether this may affect competition.
It has asked interested parties – which could include rivals such as Google – to comment on the scheme with a view to potentially launching an investigation.
Microsoft, which is believed to have played a role in the swift reinstatement of OpenAI boss Sam Altman following his ouster from the board last monthhas insisted that the companies retain their independence.
Sir. Altman briefly joined Microsoft during his five-day exile from the company he co-founded in 2015, and the CMA said the saga had partly influenced its decision.
Upon his return, it was announced that the Windows maker would take a non-voting position on OpenAI’s board.
Microsoft president and vice chairman Brad Smith downplayed the arrangement, saying it was “very different to an acquisition like Google’s purchase of DeepMind in the UK”.
Google bought this company in 2014, when there was far less mainstream control of the artificial intelligence industry.
Now called Google DeepMind, it works on the search giant’s AI products, including its Bard chatbot, which received a significant upgrade earlier this week.
Microsoft said it would work closely with the CMA on its review, while OpenAI has not commented.
The watchdog is closely monitoring the AI industry for potential competition or consumer protection issues.
It has already locked horns with Microsoft this year, after fiercely resisting the company’s record $69bn (£56bn) takeover by gaming giant Activision Blizzard.
The CMA finally approved the deal in Octoberalmost two years after it was announced.