Will OpenAI Be an Arms Merchant?

John Battelle
4 min readJan 5
The Mac represented a new interface paradigm for computing, one that Microsoft ignored — until it couldn’t. Will Google do the same?

(original post on Searchblog)

Just last week I predicted that Google would leverage ChatGPT to create a conversational interface to its search business, and that Microsoft would do the same in the enterprise data market. I briefly considered that I might have gotten it exactly backwards — Google has a robust enterprise data business in its cloud business (known as GCP), and of course Microsoft has Bing. But I quickly dismissed that notion — figuring that each behemoth would play the GPT card toward their strengths.

While I may have been right about ChatGPT getting a business model this year, it looks like I could be wrong on the details. Here’s The Information with a scoop:

Microsoft is preparing to launch a version of its Bing search engine that uses the artificial intelligence behind ChatGPT to answer some search queries rather than just showing a list of links, according to two people with direct knowledge of the plans. Microsoft hopes the new feature, which could launch before the end of March, will help it outflank Google, its much bigger search rival.

The link is behind a rather expensive paywall (I’m a newly refreshed subscriber), but Engadget and many others have more. Apparently Microsoft negotiated the right to integrate ChatGPT into Bing as part of its $1 billion investment back in 2019, and the fact that Bing’s version could launch as early as March means both OpenAI and Microsoft have been working on this for quite some time.

This leaves so many interesting questions unanswered. Might Google possibly do the same? And more interestingly — can it? Did OpenAI and Microsoft cut an exclusive deal for that initial $1 billion investment — effectively icing Google out? And if they did, is that consistent with the “open” vibe in OpenAI’s very name? In short, is OpenAI going to be an arms dealer, or has it been effectively captured by Microsoft, at least in the search arena? And what about the enterprise?

The Information notes that Microsoft is already repackaging previous versions of OpenAI technology for enterprise clients, and I still think the enterprise is where Microsoft will end up making the most of its partnership with OpenAI. But this news leaves me wondering — what will Google do next?

John Battelle

A Founder of The Recount, NewCo, Federated Media, sovrn Holdings, Web 2 Summit, Wired, Industry Standard; writer on Media, Technology, Culture, Business