Microsoft reveals Bing's Azure OpenAI future

When Microsoft announced it would be spending $10 billion on the next stage of its OpenAI partnership, everyone knew it was big news. The real question was: "What, exactly, would this mean?" Now we know.

Today, during a surprise Microsoft in-person news conference, Satya Nadella, Microsoft's Chairman and CEO, said humans will be calling the shots "for the design decisions," but, AI will help them make top-level decisions. The first step in Microsoft's "top-level" decisions appears to be with advancing the Bing search engine.

For years, Bing has been a search also-ran. Bing doesn't quite have 9% of the global search market, Google dominates with an 84.08% share. However, Microsoft sees OpenAI technology as its shot at finally taking the lead.

A new Bing?

Thanks to a leak — well, Microsoft said it was a leak, but we have our doubts — we know a new version of Microsoft Bing is coming, which includes new AI-based features with ChatGPT integration.

The new Bing features a chat box rather than a search box. With it, you can talk to the search engine in normal language like it were a person rather than craft a search to pry out the right data.

Nadella also said GitHub Copilot — Microsoft's AI pair-programming service — would be ChatGPT-enabled to will help people work on many different kinds of projects. Copilot is very popular, despite running into copyright tripwires that are also sure to entangle OpenAI ChatGPT as well.

Bing and Azure

Yousef Khalidi, Microsoft's Corporate VP of Azure, thinks an OpenAI-enabled Bing can take take the lead in search because he claimed, "40% of search queries result in the person going back right away due to the search not being accurate, because people use it for things that it wasn't designed for."

For example, they ask search engines for navigation, news, and trip planning. All that can be done with search, but search isn't exactly designed for it.

Sarah Bird, Azure's Responsible AI Lead, said, Microsoft will use an Azure-based ChatGPT conversation bot, without humans to moderate conversations, to classify responses and "create a tight loop of testing, analyzing, and improving" conversations' answers.

How well will this work? We'll soon find out. The new ChatGPT-enabled Bing is live today for a limited number of queries. Bird said Microsoft expects to roll out the service to millions in the coming weeks.

Next-gen ChatGPT and compute power

Microsoft won't be working with the same old ChatGPT for the new and improved Bing.

Besides the new OpenAI being customized specifically for search, it takes key learnings and advancements from ChatGPT and GPT-3.5, which Microsoft claims is "even faster, more accurate, and more capable."

Running on top of this new OpenAI is the Prometheus model. This is a proprietary way of working with OpenAI to give users more relevant, timely, and targeted results, with improved safety.

Microsoft also claims that combining OpenAI with its core Bing search ranking engine has led to the largest jump in search results relevance in two decades.

Of course, all these AI results demand a lot of Azure compute resources. To address this, Microsoft representatives in a Q and A said session, said they are "being smarter about offloading smart compute and being smart when we need AI," and "Doing a lot of optimization in Azure to make this efficient, but more work is needed."


Azure developers will also be able to use OpenAI via an API, but control will vary from product to product."

Specifically, developers can use it via the Azure OpenAI Service, which provides REST API access to OpenAI's powerful language models such as the GPT-3, Codex and Embeddings model series. This includes, but is not limited to, content generation, summarization, semantic search and natural language-to-code translation.

For now, Microsoft is working only with existing partners, lower-risk use cases and those committed to incorporating responsible AI practices.

That said, with Azure OpenAI, customers get Azure's security capabilities while running the same OpenAI models. Azure OpenAI also offers private networking, regional availability and responsible AI content filtering.

So what does all this mean? Will we all be "Binging it" instead of "Googling it" in the near future? 

Daniel Ives, Wedbush Securities Managing Director, said Microsoft's OpenAI investment and strategic partnership is a "game changer."

"Microsoft is aggressively going after the AI opportunity on both the cloud front as well as the search frontier," he wrote in an email. "We view this as the first shot across the bow in this Big Tech AI battle that is set to hit its next gear of investments over the coming months with Microsoft now leading the race."

In short, look out, Google! Microsoft is coming for where you live: Search. 

(Ed. note: ChatGPT, can you tell us which humans at Microsoft called the shots to host a surprise, in-person press conference that was not live-streamed? Especially when the aforementioned company is known for technology that makes collaboration between virtual teams possible?)