Microsoft and Apple Withdraw from OpenAI Board Amid Regulatory Scrutiny

Microsoft and Apple have decided to step back from their planned roles on OpenAI’s board, a move that comes as regulatory bodies intensify their scrutiny of Big Tech’s influence in the rapidly evolving artificial intelligence sector.

Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion in OpenAI, announced its withdrawal from its observer role on the board in a letter sent to the AI company on Tuesday. The tech giant stated that it had “witnessed significant progress from the newly formed board” and was “confident in the company’s direction,” making its limited role as an observer no longer necessary.

Apple, which was reportedly set to take up a similar observer position following its recent partnership with OpenAI to bring ChatGPT to iPhones, will also not be joining the board. An OpenAI spokesperson confirmed that the company will no longer have any board observers following Microsoft’s departure.

This development comes amid growing regulatory concerns in the US and Europe about Big Tech’s partnerships with AI startups. The US Federal Trade Commission is investigating Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI as part of a broader inquiry into tech giants’ AI partnerships. Similarly, European regulators have expressed concerns about Microsoft’s influence over OpenAI and are seeking third-party views on the exclusivity clauses in their agreement.

In response to these changes, OpenAI is establishing a new approach to engage with key strategic partners and investors. The company plans to host regular stakeholder meetings with partners such as Microsoft and Apple, as well as investors like Thrive Capital and Khosla Ventures, to share progress on its mission and ensure stronger collaboration on safety and security matters.

Despite stepping back from the board, Microsoft remains OpenAI’s largest investor with a 49% stake in the company. The tech giant has integrated OpenAI’s services into its Windows and Copilot AI platforms, banking on the technology to drive future growth.

As the AI landscape continues to evolve, these moves by Microsoft and Apple highlight the delicate balance tech companies are trying to maintain between fostering innovation and addressing regulatory concerns. The decisions may help alleviate some antitrust pressures, but experts suggest that regulators will likely continue to closely monitor the relationships between major tech firms and AI startups.