Microsoft Hires Ex-DeepMind Co-Founder Mustafa Suleyman to Lead New Microsoft AI Group

In a major development in the artificial intelligence industry, Microsoft has announced the hiring of Mustafa Suleyman, the co-founder of Google’s DeepMind, to head up a newly formed consumer AI division called Microsoft AI. The 39-year-old British tech pioneer, who left Google in 2022 to co-found Inflection AI, will serve as executive vice president and CEO of Microsoft AI, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Along with Suleyman, several other key members of Inflection AI are also joining Microsoft in senior roles:

  • Karén Simonyan, co-founder and chief scientist of Inflection AI, will become Chief Scientist for Microsoft AI
  • Mikhail Parakhin, head of the team responsible for Microsoft’s Copilot, Bing, and Edge products, will move under Suleyman in the new Microsoft AI group
  • Misha Bilenko, corporate vice president of Microsoft generative AI, will also join the Microsoft AI group

Suleyman co-founded DeepMind in 2010 along with Demis Hassabis and Shane Legg. The company was acquired by Google in 2014 for $400 million and has been at the forefront of AI research. Suleyman served as DeepMind’s Chief Product Officer until controversy over some of its healthcare projects led him to take on an advisory role in late 2019. He left Google in January 2022 to launch Inflection AI.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had high praise for Suleyman, saying in a memo to employees: “I’ve known Mustafa for several years and have greatly admired him as a founder of both DeepMind and Inflection, and as a visionary, product maker, and builder of pioneering teams that go after bold missions.”

Microsoft’s AI Ambitions

Microsoft has made clear its intention to be a leader in the rapidly advancing field of artificial intelligence. Key moves include:

  • Investing billions of dollars in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, and integrating OpenAI’s technology across its product suite
  • Incorporating AI into the new Bing search engine and Edge web browser
  • Launching Microsoft 365 Copilot to bring generative AI capabilities to productivity apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook
  • Introducing vertical-specific Copilot offerings like Copilot for Finance

The formation of the Microsoft AI group under Suleyman signals an even greater emphasis on developing consumer AI products and cutting-edge AI research. As Nadella stated: “This infusion of new talent will enable us to accelerate our pace yet again.”

Microsoft’s aggressive push into AI is part of an intensifying rivalry with Google, which has long been the leader in AI research but is seen as moving more slowly to productize the technology. With Suleyman’s hiring, Microsoft gains one of the top minds that helped build Google’s AI prowess.

Beyond DeepMind, Microsoft’s AI efforts also appear to be a response to the rise of OpenAI under CEO Sam Altman. Microsoft was an early investor in OpenAI and has an exclusive license to its GPT language models, but the startup’s runaway success with ChatGPT and its $29 billion valuation have highlighted the enormous potential of generative AI. There has even been speculation that Microsoft could acquire OpenAI outright.

The State of Play in AI

The battle for AI supremacy among tech giants has led to a flurry of activity in recent months:

CompanyKey AI Moves
Microsoft– Invested billions in OpenAI and leveraging GPT technology
– Launched new Bing and Microsoft 365 Copilot
– Hired Mustafa Suleyman to lead Microsoft AI group
Google– Announced ChatGPT rival Bard
– Incorporated generative AI into Google Workspace
– Reorganized DeepMind under new Google DeepMind division
Meta– Created large language model LLaMA
– Formed new top-level AI group reporting to Mark Zuckerberg
Apple– Hired Google’s former AI chief John Giannandrea
– Developing “Apple GPT” for Siri
Amazon– Launched CodeWhisperer and AI writing assistant
– Added generative AI to AWS cloud offerings

With the rapid pace of AI advancements, the competitive landscape could shift quickly. But Microsoft is clearly positioning itself to be a major player through both in-house development and partnerships.

At the same time, the rise of AI is raising significant questions and concerns around ethics, safety, bias, and the impact on jobs and society. As a steward of the technology, Microsoft will need to grapple with these issues.

Looking Ahead

The addition of Mustafa Suleyman and the Inflection AI team is a coup for Microsoft and instantly makes it a force in consumer-facing AI. With a direct line to CEO Satya Nadella, Suleyman will have the resources and support to build Microsoft AI into a powerhouse.

In the near term, expect to see continued enhancements to Microsoft’s Copilot offerings as they get deployed more widely. Suleyman will likely also accelerate development of new AI products and services aimed at consumers. Longer-term, having an accomplished AI leader like Suleyman at the helm positions Microsoft to drive the next wave of breakthroughs in artificial intelligence.

However, Suleyman has also been an outspoken voice on the need for ethical guardrails and responsible development of AI. In his book “The Coming Wave,” he warned that advanced AI systems could pose existential risks if not properly controlled. As he said in an interview last year:

“I think the cool thing about what I’m doing is that I’m predicting something. And I think a lot of people don’t have the courage to predict things. I don’t think I’m wrong, but we do have time to intervene.”

Balancing the enormous potential of AI with the very real dangers will be perhaps the biggest challenge for Suleyman and Microsoft in the years ahead. But with a track record of pioneering innovation and now a crew of top AI talent, they are well equipped to help shape the future of this transformative technology.

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