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Apple and Microsoft Step Back from OpenAI Board

Apple and Microsoft are reportedly relinquishing their non-voting seats on OpenAI’s board.

That’s according to a report Wednesday (July 10) from the Financial Times (FT), which notes that the companies’ decisions come amid increased regulatory oversight into tech giants’ investments in artificial intelligence (AI) startups.

The report cites a letter from Microsoft — which has invested roughly $13 billion in OpenAI and joined the company’s board in an observer-only role last year — saying that it was vacating that position “effective immediately.”

Apple had been planning to take a similar seat on the board as well, part of the company’s deal to integrate OpenAI’s ChatGPT into the iPhone and other devices. Now, Apple is walking back that decision, the FT said, citing a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

PYMNTS has contacted both companies for comment but has not yet gotten a reply.

An OpenAI spokesperson told the news outlet that the company will instead hold regular meetings with partners like Apple and Microsoft and its investors, in “a new approach to informing and engaging key strategic partners.” 

The decision is happening at a time when Big Tech’s investments in AI companies have drawn the attention of regulators.

For example, the UK’s antitrust watchdogs are looking into the partnerships between Microsoft and Amazon and smaller AI companies, an inquiry that — as PYMNTS has written — could alter the landscape of the artificial intelligence industry.

Some experts contend that a strict antitrust ruling may not only change how major corporations do business with emerging AI firms but could also lessen enthusiasm for new partnerships, possibly hindering innovation. 

“A direct ruling that prohibits exclusive partnerships or creates substantial barriers to building direct partnerships between generative AI companies and the major tech companies will likely make capital more difficult to obtain and would therefore slow their growth,” Ryan M. Yonk, a senior research faculty member at think tank The American Institute for Economic Research, told PYMNTS.

Regulatory pressure escalated last week with reports that the French Competition Authority was preparing to charge Nvidia, the world’s most valuable AI chipmaker, with anticompetitive practices, becoming the first regulatory body to take such action.

“Nvidia’s meteoric rise in the AI boom has put it under the regulatory microscope,” PYMNTS wrote last week. “The company’s market valuation has soared past $3 trillion, with its stock price more than doubling this year alone. However, this success has raised concerns about potential market abuses.”