Microsoft, Apple step down from OpenAI governance roles amid mounting regulatory scrutiny

Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. have pulled their plans to take board positions at OpenAI, a surprise move that underscores growing regulatory scrutiny of big tech companies’ influence on artificial intelligence.

Microsoft, which invested $13 billion in the creator of ChatGPT, will step down from its board, the company said in a letter to OpenAI seen by Bloomberg News. Apple was expected to take on a similar role, but an OpenAI spokesman said the startup would not have board observers after Microsoft’s departure.

Regulators in Europe and the US have raised concerns about Microsoft’s influence over OpenAI, putting pressure on one of the world’s most valuable companies to show it’s keeping its distance. Microsoft has integrated OpenAI’s services into its Windows and Copilot AI platforms and, like other major US tech companies, is leaning on new technology to help drive growth.

“We have seen significant progress from the newly formed board over the past eight months, and we are confident in the direction the company is headed,” Microsoft wrote in the memo. “We no longer believe our limited observer role is necessary.”

Microsoft faces broader scrutiny over perceived dominance in artificial intelligence. The United States has launched separate investigations into Microsoft’s alleged dominance in the fast-growing field and whether the company properly notified antitrust agencies about its deal with OpenAI rival Inflection AI, according to people familiar with the matter.

European regulators have also said they will probe Microsoft’s rivals over OpenAI’s exclusive use of its technology, while the UK’s competition watchdog is considering opening a deeper investigation into the tie-up.

Microsoft is not being singled out for criticism. The U.K. is also investigating Inc.’s $4 billion partnership with AI company Anthropic, raising concerns that big tech companies are using partnerships to “protect themselves from competition.” The U.S. is investigating Nvidia Corp.’s dominance of AI chips.

The Financial Times previously reported Microsoft’s withdrawal.

The largest U.S. technology companies, including Microsoft, as well as Nvidia, Alphabet Inc. and, have invested tens of billions of dollars in AI businesses. While those investments and partnerships have been a lifeline for startups, regulators have raised concerns that they risk concentrating access to the most innovative large language models among tech companies that already dominate other platforms.

Tech giants are also striking non-monetary deals. They include Apple’s partnership with OpenAI to bring ChatGPT to the iPhone and Microsoft’s decision earlier this year to hire Inflection AI’s Mustafa Suleyman and most of his staff from rival OpenAI.

Microsoft took a nonvoting observer position on OpenAI’s board last year, weeks after the startup’s directors fired CEO Sam Altman in a dramatic coup over the company’s direction. Altman was quickly reinstated after an employee backlash, and the board was rebuilt.

“We are grateful to Microsoft for expressing their confidence in their management and the direction of the company, and we look forward to continuing our successful partnership,” OpenAI said in a statement to Bloomberg News, without directly commenting on Apple or Microsoft’s decisions.

OpenAI said it will hold regular stakeholder meetings with partners and investors, including Thrive Capital and Khosla Ventures, in the future “to share progress toward our mission and ensure closer collaboration on security.”

OpenAI started in 2015 as a nonprofit research organization but later changed its structure to become a for-profit startup that seeks investment and commercial partnerships.

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