Apple and Microsoft Won’t Have OpenAI Board Seats

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Key Takeaways

  • Microsoft has given up its observer seat on OpenAI's board.
  • It claims it's satisfied with where OpenAI is heading.
  • OpenAI is now ruling out any observers, including Apple.

Microsoft has dropped its observer seat on the OpenAI board of directors, and a change in policy should exclude Apple as well.

In a statement to OpenAI seen by Axios, Microsoft said it was immediately dropping its observer status. The Windows creator said it had taken the position when OpenAI was “rebuilding” its board following the brief ouster of CEO Sam Altman, but was now “confident in [OpenAI’s] direction.”

OpenAI confirmed the move and said it was taking a “new approach” to working with partners like Apple, Microsoft, and venture capital investors. While the spokesperson didn’t elaborate, an Axios source claimed the company was scrapping observers altogether.

The decision effectively rules out an Apple presence on the board. Bloomberg had reported that Phil Schiller would become an observer as part of an agreement to integrate ChatGPT into the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

There was regulatory pressure for OpenAI to distance itself from companies. The European Commission and other government bodies were concerned Microsoft’s observer role, combined with its 49% stake in OpenAI, might run afoul of EU merger rules. Microsoft may have effectively had control even though it legally didn’t own its partner.

The new strategy theoretically addresses these worries and prevents any company from using an observer seat to exert undue influence. Whether or not the EU is satisfied isn’t clear, but it would instead have to focus its attention on Microsoft’s investments.