Sam Altman may never join Microsoft

Another twist in the OpenAI affair: Sam Altman is still open to returning to the company that invented ChatGPT. Satya Nadella’s announcements are more like a promise than a hire, while almost all of OpenAI’s employees are threatening to resign.

Did Microsoft pull off the coup of the century by announcing it would hire Sam Altman and Greg Brockman? For many, this announcement from Satya Nadella equates to a $0 buyout of OpenAI. The threat of 700 OpenAI employees, who indicate that they are ready to join Microsoft, reinforces this impression. Microsoft could acquire OpenAI without paying anything. An achievement, considering the company was valued at around $90 billion a few days ago.

Isn’t all this excitement exaggerated? As several Microsoft employees noted on November 20, Sam Altman was not added to the group’s employee registry. For what? Because he isn’t yet. Worse still, negotiations are said to still continue with OpenAI’s board of directors, with an eye on a possible return of Sam Altman (after the aborted draft on November 19). Sam Altman’s future is still up in the air, while Microsoft doesn’t really have a plan.

Can Microsoft really hire all OpenAI?

Will Sam Altman come to Microsoft? Requested by BloombergTV on November 20, Satya Nadella was quite mysterious: “Wherever he is, he will work with Microsoft.” The Microsoft CEO is referring to the unique partnership that OpenAI links to his company, as he owns 49% of the assets thanks to an investment of around ten billion dollars. OpenAI is committed to a lifelong partnership with Microsoft, as recently demonstrated by the integration of GPT-4 with Bing or Windows, using Copilot technology.

With this element in mind, we can therefore ask ourselves the following question: does Microsoft really gain from bringing back all OpenAI employees? The 10 billion invested in OpenAI cannot be repaid, which would force him to continue working with what is left of the company. Regarding the payroll of 700 people, including Sam Altman, this threatens to have a significant impact on the accounts. Add to that all the technical requirements of a company like OpenAI… Roughly speaking, an OpenAI absorbed by Microsoft could cost more than an OpenAI in a near-exclusive partnership with Microsoft. Let’s add that Microsoft could one day become within one percent the majority shareholder of the group.

Sam Altman, director of OpenAI, and Satya Nadella, director of Microsoft.  // Source: MicrosoftSam Altman, director of OpenAI, and Satya Nadella, director of Microsoft.  // Source: Microsoft
Sam Altman, director of OpenAI, and Satya Nadella, director of Microsoft. // Source: Microsoft

What’s going to happen? In their letter, OpenAI employees demand the resignation of the board of directors and the return of Sam Altman and the other exiles. A scenario that would suit Microsoft perfectly, as it would allow it to find the OpenAI that funded it at the beginning of 2023. In this scenario, Microsoft could also take a place on the new board of directors, as an ally of Sam Altman. Either way, Microsoft would be a winner.

It now remains to find a solution for OpenAI’s board of directors, while at least one of its members has admitted to regretting his choice (and another is accused of taking revenge on Sam Altman). New boss Emmett Shear has already lost his authority after his employees refused to listen to him during his presentation speech. Everything is moving towards a new revolution.

Why did Satya Nadella announce he was going to hire Sam Altman if he knew all along he wouldn’t do it? The Microsoft boss acted in his company’s financial interests a few hours before the opening of Wall Street. With this announcement he reassured investors, who pushed Microsoft to a historic level. Without communication, the vagueness could have caused him to lose billions of dollars. Satya Nadella is a conductor who will indeed work with Sam Altman. At OpenAI or at Microsoft, as he promised to do.

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