Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced on Friday that it examines the nature of the partnership between US tech giant Microsoft and artificial intelligence developer OpenAI.
The inquiry aims to determine if their collaboration constitutes a merger, with the CMA seeking input from the involved parties and interested third parties.
The CMA’s investigation focuses on whether recent developments in the partnership, including Microsoft’s addition to OpenAI’s board as an observer, have led to a ‘relevant merger situation.’ This inquiry comes amid turbulent times for OpenAI, highlighted by the brief firing and rehiring of CEO Sam Altman.
The CMA’s criteria for a relevant merger can include minority shareholdings or certain commercial arrangements, such as outsourcing. The watchdog has emphasized the importance of sustained competition in the rapidly evolving AI sector for competition and consumer protection.
Microsoft President Brad Smith commented on the partnership, asserting that it has spurred AI innovation and competition while maintaining independence for both companies. Smith clarified that Microsoft’s role as a non-voting observer on OpenAI’s board significantly differs from an outright acquisition, like Google’s purchase of DeepMind in the UK.
Microsoft is committed to working with the CMA to provide the necessary information. The announcement follows the CMA’s recent approval of Microsoft’s $69-billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a deal initially blocked over competition concerns.