OpenAI: What about Uncertainty and Google DeepMind?

November 20, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

A large number of write ups about Microsoft and its response to the OpenAI management move populate my inbox this morning (Monday, November 20, 2023).

To give you a sense of the number of poohbahs, mavens, and “real” journalists covering Microsoft’s hiring of Sam (AI-Man) Altman, I offer this screen shot of taken at 1100 am US Eastern time:


A single screenshot cannot do justice to  the digital bloviating on this subject as well as related matters.

I did a quick scan because I simply don’t have the time at age 79 to read every item in this single headline service. Therefore, I admit that others may have thought about the impact of the Steve Jobs’s like termination, the revolt of some AI wizards, and Microsoft’s creating a new “company” and hiring Sam AI-Man and a pride of his cohorts in the span of 72 hours (give or take time for biobreaks).

In this short essay, I want to hypothesize about how the news has been received by that merry band of online advertising professionals.

To begin, I want to suggest that the turmoil about who is on first at OpenAI sent a low voltage signal through the collective body of the Google. Frisson resulted. Uncertainty and opportunity appeared together like the beloved Scylla and Charybdis, the old pals of Ulysses. The Google found its right and left Brainiac hemispheres considering that OpenAI would experience a grave set back, thus clearing a path for Googzilla alone. Then one of the Brainiac hemisphere reconsidered and perceive a grave threat from the split. In short, the Google tipped into its zone of uncertainty.


A group of online advertising experts meet to consider the news that Microsoft has hired Sam Altman. The group looks unhappy. Uncertainty is an unpleasant factor in some business decisions. Thanks Microsoft Copilot, you captured the spirit of how some Silicon Valley wizards are reacting to the OpenAI turmoil because Microsoft used the OpenAI termination of Sam Altman as a way to gain the upper hand in the cloud and enterprise app AI sector.

Then the matter appeared to shift back to the pre-termination announcement. The co-founder of OpenAI gained more information about the number of OpenAI employees who were planning to quit or, even worse, start posting on Instagram, WhatsApp, and TikTok ( is no longer considered the go-to place by the in crowd.

The most interesting development was not that Sam AI-Man would return to the welcoming arms of Open AI. No, Sam AI-Man and another senior executive were going to hook up with the geniuses of Redmond. A new company would be formed with Sam AI-Man in charge.

As these actions unfolded, the Googlers sank under a heavy cloud of uncertainty. What if the Softies could use Google’s own open source methods, integrate rumored Microsoft-developed AI capabilities, and make good on Sam AI-Man’s vision of an AI application store?

The Googlers found themselves reading every “real news” item about the trajectory of Sam AI-Man and Microsoft’s new AI unit. The uncertainty has morphed into another January 2023 Davos moment. Here’s my take as of 230 pm US Eastern, November 20, 2023:

  1. The Google faces a significant threat when it comes to enterprise AI apps. Microsoft has a lock on law firms, the government, and a number of industry sectors. Google has a presence, but when it comes to go-to apps, Microsoft is the Big Dog. More and better AI raises the specter of Microsoft putting an effective laser defense behinds its existing enterprise moat.
  2. Microsoft can push its AI functionality as the Azure difference. Furthermore, whether Google or Amazon for that matter assert their cloud AI is better, Microsoft can argue, “We’re better because we have Sam AI-Man.” That is a compelling argument for government and enterprise customers who cannot imagine work without Excel and PowerPoint. Put more AI in those apps, and existing customers will resist blandishments from other cloud providers.
  3. Google now faces an interesting problem: It’s own open source code could be converted into a death ray, enhanced by Sam AI-Man, and directed at the Google. The irony of Googzilla having its left claw vaporized by its own technology is going to be more painful than Satya Nadella rolling out another Davos “we’re doing AI” announcement.

Net net: The OpenAI machinations are interesting to many companies. To the Google, the OpenAI event and the Microsoft response is like an unsuspecting person getting zapped by Nikola Tesla’s coil. Google’s mastery of high school science club management techniques will now dig into the heart of its DeepMind.

Stephen E Arnold, November 20, 2023


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