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EU looking at Microsoft’s OpenAI investment
Margrethe Vestager, commissioner in charge of competition policy Pic: Stine Hellman, European Union, 2023

09 Jan 2024 / technology Print

EU checks on Microsoft’s OpenAI investment

The European Commission has said that it is examining whether Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI may be reviewable under EU competition rules.

It is also looking into some of the agreements that have been concluded between large digital-market players and generative AI developers and providers.

Early last year, OpenAI said that Microsoft had made a fresh “multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment” in the firm, but added that it would continue to be governed by its non-profit parent company.

Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority is also looking at the relationship between the companies. Its move followed the return of Sam Altman as CEO of the firm just days after his sacking in November last year.

Calls for feedback

The news came as the commission launched two separate calls for feedback on the level of competition in the areas of virtual worlds and generative artificial intelligence (AI).

“All interested stakeholders are invited to share their experience and provide feedback on the level of competition in the context of virtual worlds and generative AI, and their insights on how competition law can help ensure that these new markets remain competitive,” the EU body said in a statement.

It added that it had sent requests for information to “several large digital players”.

The commission said that it would “carefully review” all feedback received by the 11 March deadline, and signalled that it might hold a workshop on the issue in the second quarter of this year.

Exponential growth expected

Virtual worlds are persistent, immersive environments – based on technologies including 3D and extended reality (XR) – that make it possible to blend physical and digital worlds in real-time, for a variety of purposes.

Generative AI systems generate, in response to a user prompt, synthetic audio, image, video or text content, for a wide range of possible uses.

The commission stated that both technologies were expected to grow “exponentially” in the coming years, and were likely to have a major impact on how businesses competed.

“It is fundamental that these new markets stay competitive, and that nothing stands in the way of businesses growing and providing the best and most innovative products to consumers,” said EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager (pictured).

Gazette Desk
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