Microsoft CTO Was “Very Worried” About Google’s AI Progress, Emails Sent to Satya Nadella and Bill Gates Reveal

2019 emails sent to Bill Gates and CEO Satya Nadella resurfaced as part of an antitrust probe into Google.

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Microsoft now has a partnership with OpenAI’s ChatGPT to the tune of $10 billion USD, even if it doesn’t have its own chatbot, but the company wasn’t always on the cutting edge of the AI space. In fact, it was lagging on AI advancements just a few years ago, emails from 2019 have revealed.

The emails have surfaced as part of the Department of Justice’s antitrust probe into Google and were sent to CEO Satya Nadella and Bill Gates. In the emails, Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott paints a bleak picture of the company’s AI advancements compared to its competitors.

“The thing that’s interesting about what OpenAI and DeepMind and Google Brain are doing is the scale of their ambition,” Scott wrote. Deep Mind is an AI research lab acquired by Google in 2014, while Google Brain was a now-defunct internal branch of the company.

At the time, DeepMind had been training AI to play the Chinese board game Go, which may have seemed frivolous to competitors but was a marker of the technology’s advanced intelligence. Scott writes that he “was highly dismissive of that. That was a mistake.”

“As I dug in to try to understand where all of the capability gaps were between Google and us for model training, I got very, very worried,” Scott wrote in the email, expressing his concerns over Microsoft’s lack of progress in the AI space. Other emails obtained by the DoJ were sent with the subject line “Thoughts on OpenAI.”

Nadella appeared to share Scott’s concerns and looped in Microsoft’s CFO, writing “why I want us to do this.”

The same year, Microsoft made its initial $1 billion USD investment into OpenAI, becoming its official cloud computing partner. Five years later, OpenAI has continued to dominate the AI space, proving a worthy partner for Microsoft.

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