What DeepMind Co-Founder Mustafa Suleyman’s Move to Microsoft Means For AI

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of Google DeepMind, has joined Microsoft to lead a new AI team directly reporting to CEO Satya Nadella.
  • The team, dubbed Microsoft AI, will focus on consumer AI products like Copilot, Bing, and Edge, with Suleyman leading alongside former Inflection AI members such as Karen Simonyan.
  • Their success with Inflection AI, particularly its chatbot Pi and successor Inflection 2, garnered attention, outperforming popular LLMs in key metrics.
  • Suleyman's expertise and reputation promise to invigorate Microsoft's AI efforts, which is crucial for asserting dominance in consumer AI.

Last week Mustafa Suleyman, the co-founder of Google DeepMind, joined Microsoft as the CEO of a new AI team that will report directly to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

According to a post on X by Suleyman, he will be leading the development of the organization’s consumer AI products and research. This includes products like Copilot, Bing, and Edge.

The new team, now known as Microsoft AI, will also feature Karen Simonyan, ex-DeepMind researcher and chief scientist and co-founder of Inflection AI, as well as other members of Inflection AI.

While it was initially announced that Copilot, Bing, and Edge teams would report to Suleyman, that team’s leader, Mikhail Parakhin, has since stepped down to “explore new roles.”

Where Does Suleyman’s Move Fit into the AI Arms Race?

Suleyman’s move has the potential to be a big opportunity for Microsoft, which continues to increase its catalog of AI-driven products.

Having already outlived OpenAI’s Sam Altman, who lasted two days as Microsoft head of AI before returning back to OpenAI, Suleyman has a chunky challenge ahead of him — but the background to pull it off successfully.

After all, not only has Suleyman helped create one of the world’s most renowned AI labs in DeepMind, but he’s also coming off the impressive success of the highly praised generative AI startup Inflection AI.

Inflection AI was founded in 2022 by Suleyman and Simonyan, and went on to achieve a valuation of $4 billion, with investors including Microsoft and Nvidia backing the organization.

A large part of this success was due to the company’s conversational chatbot, Pi, released in May 2023, which acted like a more informal version of ChatGPT. This model was a success in terms of its performance — in June 2023, research shows it outperforming models including GPT 3.5, Llama 65B, Chinchilla, and PaLM on key performance benchmarks such as MMLU.

Then, its successor. Inflection 2, released in November 2023, went on to outperform Meta’s widely used Llama 2 large language model (LLM) and even Claude 2 with chain-of-thought reasoning on the MMLU benchmark.

While GPT 3.5 and Llama 2 aren’t on the level of market leaders like GPT-4, Claude 3, or Gemini, the fact that Suleyman and Simonyan were able to build Inflection AI and compete against Meta and Anthropic was impressive.

When considering this alongside the vast Microsoft product ecosystem and vast proprietary data sources, there is the potential for the ex-Inflection AI execs to make significant advancements to the organization’s consumer-facing AI solutions.

Market Watch: Microsoft AI’s Place in the LLM Market

So far, even though Microsoft has been eagerly investing in generative AI as part of products like Copilot and Bing Chat, it hasn’t managed to capture the same level of hype that tools like ChatGPT and Gemini have, with the former hitting 100 million weekly active users last year.

In fact, according to Tech.co’s 2024 Impact of Technology on the Workplace Report, which surveyed over 1,000 US business leaders in 2023, just 21% of businesses used Bing AI Chat, compared to Bard at 48% and ChatGPT at 65%.

ChatGPT has largely become the golden goose simply by managing to capture popular imagination off the back of its November 2023 release as an intelligent AI agent that can respond to any text prompt in natural language.

From this perspective, a DeepMind co-founder joining has the potential to bring some much-needed hype to Microsoft’s AI products, which have been somewhat obscured by the slicker user experiences offered by ChatGPT and Gemini.

One of the edges that Microsoft has over competitors like OpenAI and Anthropic is its product ecosystem. OpenAI and Anthropic don’t have that established Office 365 ecosystem of apps like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel in which to implement AI.

Really the only other competitor that rivals that ecosystem is Google — which has the tie-in with Google Cloud and Google Workspace and the ability to provide generative AI in powerhouse tools like Docs and Search.

Suleyman looks poised to become a critical appointment for Microsoft to start making the most of that rich ecosystem of underlying products to help bring users the frictionless experiences they expect when interacting with AI agents.

The Bottom Line

The formation of Microsoft AI highlights that the organization is taking active steps to consolidate its position in the market. Though the tech giant benefits heavily from its partnership with OpenAI, the two companies are nonetheless competitors in a fast-moving market.

While Suleyman undoubtedly brings incredible technical expertise to the table, perhaps his most valuable contribution to Microsoft is that he’s got people excited about its AI innovation.

After all, if you want to be the top dog in consumer AI, you need to capture the world’s imagination.

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