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With ChatGPT's explosion in recent months, and the impact of Dall-E 2 earlier in 2022, Microsoft is finally getting a return on its investment in OpenAI.
The vendor initially invested $1 billion in the AI startup in 2019. It also became the exclusive cloud provider for OpenAI and its preferred partner.
Since then, ChatGPT, the easy-to-use query-based language model that is trained on an immense storehouse of knowledge, has quickly become an international sensation heralded as ushering in a new era of mass AI. OpenAI's Dell-E technology does the same for text-to-image applications, enabling users to easily ask the model to create complex and varied images.
The tech giant will likely soon invest $10 billion more into OpenAI and could incorporate the chat model into the Bing search engine, according to multiple media reports.
A Microsoft spokesperson said: "We do not comment on speculation."
Even so, there may be some accuracy to the reports.
"There's very likely a lot of speculation within Microsoft to figure out exactly what they're going to do with these [OpenAI offerings]," said Forrester analyst William McKeon-White. "I would assume Microsoft can't comment on speculation because there's still a lot of speculation internally."
Moreover, despite the lack of confirmation from Microsoft, there are strong signs that the company is planning on pouring more money into OpenAI, said Dan Miller, an analyst and founder of Opus Research.
"Bringing the intellectual property of OpenAI across all sorts of computing infrastructure powered by Microsoft's operating systems, its application software, and its search resources [makes this] this a good opportunity," Miller said.
ChatGPT and Bing vs. Google Search
If Microsoft tries to incorporate ChatGPT into Bing, it would be a stiff challenge to make Bing a replacement for or strong competitor with Google Search.
William Mckeon-WhiteAnalyst, Forrester
"It's a step in the right direction and it would help, but it would be one component of what Google offers," McKeon-White said.
Google Search includes several components, he noted. First, Google can pull out user intent behind a search, a capability now absent from ChatGPT.
Then it provides an information summary, a function ChatGPT currently has. The function enables users to search for a specific item and then aggregate all the information surrounding the origin of that request.
Google also provides information inventory and search engine optimization, the ability for Google to recognize sites and rank them -- another feature lacking in ChatGPT.
Also, while OpenAI trained ChatGPT on a massive amount of data, overall the platform's data is not up to date -- it goes until only the end of 2021 -- and can be inaccurate, McKeon-White said.
"There's all these additional features that you need to introduce to it before it could be really fully useful today," he said.
Especially for enterprise users, it's crucial to have a human in the loop to identify the accuracy of the information it is generating, McKeon-White added.
Despite some of the hiccups with ChatGPT, many still find it an appealing alternative to Google search, according to Michael Bennett, director of the education curriculum and business lead for responsible AI at Northeastern University.
"Some users are finding it to be superior in terms of substance as well as speed, given they don't have to search down through individual webpages," he said. While Google search provides thousands of webpages based on a search, ChatGPT narrows down the search by providing an answer to a specific question.
In addition, ChatGPT can create web content and entire web pages, which may be a problem for Google's ad-based business model if its ads are placed on those web pages.
"It's still lacking in terms of reliability and so that content may not be accurate, or even logical," Bennett continued. "Google-placed ads can be tainted by relation if placed on such websites."
But ChatGPT is most likely to get better and be updated quickly, he said.
"So even if the difference does matter now, it will shrink," he said.
However, even if ChatGPT can't compete against Google, it has changed how the search will be perceived, Miller said.
"Search itself will have a new look and feel," he said. "Whether you're Google using your investment in the LaMDA [language model] or Microsoft leveraging all the OpenAI resources, search has now been exposed to a better front end."