Microsoft goes beyond OpenAI, makes Meta’s new A.I. model available to Azure customers

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella arrives at court in San Francisco, June 28, 2023.

Shelby Knowles | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft went big on artificial intelligence with its multibillion-dollar investment in OpenAI, whose chatbot technology is being used alongside search and other key products.

But Microsoft is making clear that it’s not strictly an OpenAI shop when it comes to generative AI. On Tuesday at its Inspire conference, the company said it’s making Meta’s new AI large language model, dubbed Llama 2, available on its Azure cloud-computing service.

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Meta said in a blog post that Microsoft is its “preferred partner” for its Llama 2 software, which is available for free for companies and researchers.

“Meta and Microsoft share a commitment to democratizing AI and its benefits and we are excited that Meta is taking an open approach with Llama 2,” Microsoft said. “We offer developers choice in the types of models they build on, supporting open and frontier models and are thrilled to be Meta’s preferred partner as they release their new version of Llama 2 to commercial customers for the first time.”

A Meta spokesperson said the company is “not focused on monetization for Llama 2.” Companies that wish to access the software via a commercial license would need to pay Microsoft for the enterprise hosting capabilities.

In February, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the public release of Llama, which is intended to help scientists and engineers explore applications for AI such as answering questions and summarizing documents.

Although Meta will not directly make money from the deal with Microsoft, it stands to potentially benefit by getting its homegrown AI software in the hands of more users and developers. Llama 2 will also be available through Amazon Web Services and Hugging Face, a popular service used by AI researchers.

The deal is significant for Microsoft because it shows the software giant is throwing some of its weight behind an AI language model not developed by OpenAI.

Microsoft shares rose about 4.7% in midday trading to $362.12.

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