OpenAI Board Update: Microsoft and Apple Withdraw Observer Roles

  • Editor
  • July 10, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Due to governance progress, Microsoft will no longer hold an observer seat on OpenAI’s board.
  • Apple will not assume an observer role influenced by regulatory concerns.
  • Potential antitrust issues drive decisions.
  • OpenAI aims for more independent governance without Microsoft and Apple.
  • Both companies will continue to partner with OpenAI despite not holding board roles.

In a significant shift in the governance structure of OpenAI, Microsoft and Apple have decided not to assume observer roles on the company’s board of directors.

Influenced by regulatory scrutiny and strategic considerations, this decision marks a notable development in the relationship between OpenAI and these tech giants.

Microsoft’s Withdrawal

Microsoft, which has invested heavily in OpenAI, announced it would no longer hold an observer seat on OpenAI’s board. This decision follows “significant progress” in OpenAI’s governance over the past eight months.

“This position provided insights into the board’s activities without compromising its independence,” Microsoft’s deputy general counsel Keith Dolliver wrote.

Microsoft took the non-voting observer role after the dramatic ouster and subsequent reinstatement of OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, in November 2023. The attempted boardroom coup threatened OpenAI’s valuation.

The observer position allowed Microsoft to gain insights into OpenAI’s activities without compromising the company’s independence. However, with the recent advancements and stability in OpenAI’s direction, Microsoft now considers its observer role unnecessary​​.

In a communication to OpenAI, Microsoft expressed confidence in the company’s trajectory and appreciated the opportunity to contribute during a critical period of change. OpenAI, in turn, acknowledged Microsoft’s support and emphasized the continued partnership between the two entities.

Keith stated, “We have witnessed significant progress from the newly formed board and are confident in the company’s direction.” Therefore, Microsoft’s role on the board was no longer “necessary”, he said.

Apple’s Decision

Apple was also expected to assume an observer role on OpenAI’s board following announcing a partnership integrating Siri with OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

However, Apple decided not to take up (not officially confirmed) this role due to regulatory concerns and strategic shifts. Sources indicate that this decision aligns with Apple’s cautious approach amid increasing regulatory scrutiny over the influence of major tech companies in various sectors.

The decisions by both Microsoft and Apple are seen as moves to avoid potential antitrust issues. Microsoft’s deep involvement with OpenAI, given its significant investment and integration of OpenAI’s technology into its services, had raised concerns among regulators.

Microsoft alleviates some of these concerns by stepping back from the board observer role, ensuring a clearer division between the two companies​​.

Similarly, Apple’s decision not to take the observer role reflects a strategic shift to maintain regulatory compliance and avoid potential conflicts of interest in the evolving artificial intelligence (AI) landscape.

Impact on OpenAI

With the departure of these observers, OpenAI plans to establish new methods of engaging with strategic partners like Microsoft and Apple, as well as investors such as Thrive Capital and Khosla Ventures.

This approach maintains strong relationships and ensures transparent communication without formal board roles. OpenAI’s reconstituted board, which includes notable figures such as Adam D’Angelo, Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Paul Nakasone, will continue to guide the company.

The absence of observer roles from Microsoft and Apple signals a move towards more independent governance for OpenAI, potentially paving the way for further innovation and unbiased decision-making​​​.

The decisions by Microsoft and Apple to relinquish observer seats on OpenAI’s board mark a significant shift in the dynamics of tech partnerships and governance.

As OpenAI continues to evolve, its ability to maintain strong yet independent relationships with key partners will be crucial in navigating regulatory landscapes and driving future advancements in AI technology.

For more news and insights, visit AI News on our website.

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Dave Andre


Digital marketing enthusiast by day, nature wanderer by dusk. Dave Andre blends two decades of AI and SaaS expertise into impactful strategies for SMEs. His weekends? Lost in books on tech trends and rejuvenating on scenic trails.

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