Sudden Disturbances in Rapidly Moving Objects : The Implications of the OpenAI Fiasco
Last week, OpenAI suffered management team infighting over the key direction of the company. The schism inside the company resulted in Sam Altman’s firing & Greg Brockman’s departure.
This outcome injects uncertainty in the market including key partners (Microsoft & investors) & employees about the company’s future.
Microsoft, recognizing risk with a key technology partner in one of their most important markets, stabilizes its future by hiring Altman, Brockman, & others. Microsoft has rights to the OpenAI models, has diversified its algorithm providers beyond OpenAI & counts among its staff several of the most critical people in AI.
Where does that put the ecosystem now?
Microsoft has secured its leadership position.
Microsoft owns the biggest commercial AI business in the world - about $1.5b in run-rate. OpenAI is second with a roughly similarly sized business. Some of the current OpenAI revenue will shift to Microsoft.
Microsoft counts members of the OpenAI team amongst its ranks. The company has a diversified suite of models to use & is now the most stable vendor offering OpenAI technologies.
If the rumors are true, Microsoft may also have the opportunity to build an Nvidia competitor with Altman at the helm, opening the $40b GPU market that grows at more 30% annually to the nearly $3t market cap behemoth.
OpenAI needs to stabilize itself. The leadership must declare clearly their goals, their team, & their plan for the next few years because OpenAI has confused the market & the employee base with its fast-action, strategic direction changes, & lack of clarity.
By stating to the market it aims to slow down, OpenAI poses questions to customers, commercial partners, employees, & developers about whether OpenAI will remain the industry’s technology leader.
Last week, OpenAI represented the future cloud of AI : the technology developers & product managers used to build a demo, then a beta, then a full-fledged product, rather than building from scratch.
Today, every product & engineering leader must be reconsidering that assumption.
Anthropic and other competing LLM providers will take advantage in the market to compete more aggressively. Perhaps these events trigger an M&A wave in the world of foundation models, but the anti-trust pressure from the government challenges many of the larger players.
As for startups, disruptions in the status quo are often advantageous. OpenAI’s dominant place in the developer ecosystem is suddenly at risk & presents an opportunity for smaller companies to fill a new void.
Sudden disturbances in rapidly moving objects like rockets tend to create catastrophic outcomes.