Microsoft partners with OpenAI-rival Mistral for AI models, drawing EU scrutiny

Velib bicycles are parked in front of the the U.S. computer and micro-computing company headquarters Microsoft on January 25, 2023 in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.

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announced plans to offer AI models from Mistral through its Azure cloud computing platform, which came in conjunction with a 15 million euro non-equity investment in the French firm, which is often seen as a European rival to OpenAI. Since then, the investment deal has faced scrutiny from European Union regulators.

Microsoft’s deal with Mistral, known for its large language models akin to OpenAI’s GPT-4 (which powers the subscription versions of ChatGPT), marks a notable expansion of its AI portfolio at a time when its well-known investment in California-based OpenAI has raised regulatory eyebrows. The new deal with Mistral drew particular attention from regulators because Microsoft’s investment could convert into equity (partial ownership of Mistral as a company) during Mistral’s next funding round.

The development has intensified ongoing investigations into Microsoft’s practices, particularly related to the tech giant’s dominance in the cloud computing sector. According to Reuters, EU lawmakers have voiced concerns that Mistral’s recent lobbying for looser AI regulations might have been influenced by its relationship with Microsoft. These apprehensions are compounded by the French government’s denial of prior knowledge of the deal, despite earlier lobbying for more lenient AI laws in Europe. The situation underscores the complex interplay between national interests, corporate influence, and regulatory oversight in the rapidly evolving AI landscape.

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