Microsoft announces investment in French competitor to OpenAI

Microsoft has announced a partnership with French artificial intelligence startup Mistral. As part of the deal, the Redmond giant will make an investment (the value of which was not disclosed) and will offer Mistral’s models to customers of the Azure cloud computing platform.

In addition, the two companies will collaborate on the research and development of applications for European governments. According to Microsoft, the investment made was small and will not be reverted into any equity interest.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, told Axios that Microsoft can’t “beat” the AI market alone and will make a “big change” by supporting developers of open-source models.

Prior to that, the company invested $13 billion in OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, which has been dedicated to closed models. The partnership between the two companies is being investigated in the European Union and the United Kingdom. Smith denies that Microsoft controls OpenAI.

Mistral is less than a year old and is valued at $2 billion
Mistral is a large-scale language model (LLM) development startup. It was founded in May 2023 by Timothée Lacroix (ex-Meta), Guillaume Lample (ex-Meta), and Arthur Mensch (ex-Google DeepMind).

Despite being young, the company has already received more than $500 million in investments and is valued at more than $2 billion — by way of comparison, OpenAI is valued at $86 billion. To date, its flagship product is the Mistral Large model, available via paid API.

The company claims that Mistral Large is ahead of Anthropic’s Claude 2, Google’s Gemini Pro 1.0, Meta’s Llama 2, and OpenAI’s GPT-3.5. In the company’s tests, it is second only to GPT-4, also from OpenAI. Unfortunately, there are still no independent test results on the model’s performance.

In addition to the partnership with Microsoft, Mistral launched its assistant, which has a very French name: Le Chat. The chatbot is still in beta and is free, in addition to giving a choice of three models: Mistral Large, Mistral Small (which balances cost and benefit) and Mistral Next (designed to be concise). Le Chat speaks English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish, as well as knowing how to write code.

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