CIOs Look Past the OpenAI Drama | Mint

CIOs Look Past the OpenAI Drama

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File) (AP)
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File) (AP)

Summary

Corporate technology chiefs are taking the OpenAI drama in stride and moving ahead with plans to test and deploy artificial intelligence in a range of business applications.

Corporate technology chiefs are taking the OpenAI drama in stride and moving ahead with plans to test and deploy artificial intelligence in a range of business applications.

“It was like watching a reality TV show, right? I mean it was fun to watch. I don’t think it was very substantive," said Rob Franch, chief information officer of Carriage Services, a Houston-based funeral and cemetery services and products company that had $370 million in revenue in 2022.

OpenAI Chief Executive Sam Altman has said the company didn’t lose any customers during the chaos that began with his dismissal and ended with his reinstatement and changes to the board.

The episode, however, did create an opening for OpenAI rivals to ramp up their own marketing efforts. Google said its sales team launched a campaign matching OpenAI’s pricing. Google said it is providing cloud credits to customers who use its AI software and offering assistance switching to its platform. The company Wednesday unveiled a new artificial-intelligence system, Gemini, it says is more powerful than any currently on the market.

Still, competition need not be a zero-sum game, and rivals and even OpenAI itself might find a way to use the episode to expand their business in a growing market.

Businesses worldwide will spend nearly $16 billion on generative AI solutions this year, according to a forecast from research firm International Data Corp., with spending hitting $143 billion by 2027. Generative AI’s compound annual growth rate will be nearly 13 times that of worldwide IT spending over the same four-year period from 2023 to 2027, IDC said.

“OpenAI was certainly the talk of the town," said Vineet Jain, chief executive of Egnyte, a cloud-based software company in Mountain View, Calif. that sells content security, compliance, and collaboration tools.

Egnyte accesses OpenAI models via the Microsoft Azure cloud and uses the PaLM large language model from Google AI and Meta Platforms’ Llama model, he said. The company will continue to use AI for a range of purposes, such as summarizing documents and extracting important information from complex documents such as project specifications and regulations.

Franch said Carriage Services is continuing with a pilot of Sales Copilot, a Microsoft tool that uses Microsoft Azure OpenAI technology, to help salespeople with their jobs, extracting insight from company data.

Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble said it doesn’t discuss its business relationships. The company’s chief information officer, Vittorio Cretella, said the company’s internal large language model framework had built-in buffers that insulated it from swings in the marketplace.

That framework—which includes company tools ChatPG, AskPG and ImagePG—makes it possible for the company to switch underlying foundation models from different vendors if needed, Cretella said. “That gives us flexibility to choose the most performant model as well as dealing with any uncertainty in a market that is far from being mature yet," he said.

Large language models stem from a “transformer" model developed by Google in 2017, which makes it cheaper and more efficient to train models with enormous amounts of data. So-called generative pretrained transformers, a form of deep learning, are trained on the internet as well as more tailored data sets to find long-range patterns in sequences of data, enabling AI software to come up with a fitting next word or paragraph as it writes.

OpenAI’s first GPT model, released in 2018, was built on Google’s transformer work. Foundation models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT can be used to develop more specialized applications, such as chatbots, code writing assistants, and design tools.

Still, the recent upheaval at OpenAI has exposed how the company associated with the cutting edge of artificial intelligence was subject to human frailties and emotions that no AI model is close to modeling, let alone controlling.

Some customers are apprehensive about AI. “Our customers have been concerned for more than a year about the highly dynamic nature of the generative AI market—including rapidly-changing functionality, policies, pricing models, and now, management structures," Jain said. “Everything in this space is changing rapidly and to some extent, everyone is concerned about betting on the wrong horse."

But those concerns haven’t led to a slowdown in the adoption of AI, at least so far.

Write to Steven Rosenbush at steven.rosenbush@wsj.com

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