OpenAI Exclusively Licensed Its Language-Generating Software to Microsoft

Under the deal Microsoft gets unique access to the powerful model's code, which has never been shared publicly, and can offer GPT-3 to its customers.
September 22, 2020, 7:42pm
OpenAI Just Exclusively Licensed GPT-3 to Microsoft
Jeenah Moon/Stringer via Getty Images

OpenAI, an investor-backed research lab that aims to ensure machine learning "benefits all of humanity," has exclusively licensed its impressive GPT-3 language-generation model to Microsoft.

What this means is that Microsoft gets access to the model's code, which has never been shared publicly, and can offer GPT-3 to its customers. On OpenAI's side, nothing is changing in terms of the model being available to users via a limited beta API by request. "Nothing changes for our current or future users and their ability to build products on it," OpenAI spokesperson Kelly Sims said in an email. 

OpenAI has strong ties to the tech behemoth. Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI's efforts, and previously built an Azure-hosted supercomputer exclusively for the research lab. According to Microsoft's blog post, the company intends to integrate GPT-3 with its Azure cloud platform for a wide range of possible use-cases, including "writing and composition, describing and summarizing large blocks of long-form data (including code), [and] converting natural language to another language."

GPT-3 is a massive machine learning language-generation model (175 billion parameters) that can be used in tasks as varied as writing a lengthy text from a prompt and coding working websites from natural language instructions. OpenAI has never shared the model's code, and it is only accessible through a permissioned API that runs on Microsoft's Azure platform. One of the main reasons for this, according to OpenAI, is that it believes only large companies can effectively use the model. 

OpenAI has been criticized for its decision to not release the model's code and to commercialize its products, and an exclusive license to one of the largest tech companies on Earth (and one prone to power-consolidating acquisitions) is unlikely to quell those concerns. This is especially true because one of the selling points for competitor Amazon's AWS cloud platform is its Alexa integration, and now Microsoft has the mighty and versatile GPT-3 in its back pocket.