Microsoft strikes deal with Mistral in push beyond OpenAI

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Microsoft has struck a deal with French artificial intelligence start-up Mistral as it seeks to broaden its involvement in the fast-growing industry beyond OpenAI.

The agreement, announced by Mistral on Monday, will involve the US tech giant helping to bring its AI models to market.

Microsoft will also take a minor stake in the 10-month-old Paris-based company, although the financial details have not been disclosed.

The partnership makes Mistral the second company to provide commercial language models available on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform.

“Microsoft’s trust in our model is a step forward in our journey to put frontier AI in everyone’s hands,” said Arthur Mensch, cofounder and CEO of Mistral AI.

Microsoft has already invested about $13bn in San Francisco-based OpenAI, an alliance that is being reviewed by competition watchdogs in the US, EU and UK.

Other Big Tech rivals, such as Google and Amazon, are also investing heavily in building generative AI — software that can produce text, images and code in seconds — which analysts believe has the capacity to shake up industries across the world.

Mistral, which builds large language models, the underlying technology that powers generative AI products, secured a €2bn valuation in December in a funding round worth roughly €400mn.

Its models are “open source”, meaning technical details will be released publicly.

This contrasts with the approach of competitors such as ChatGPT maker OpenAI, whose latest model GPT-4 is a so-called black box in which the data and code used to build the model are not available to third parties.

OpenAI was estimated to be worth $86bn during its recent secondary share sale last year.

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