EU looks into new deal of Microsoft, Mistral AI

LONDON — The European Union is looking into Microsoft’s partnership with French startup Mistral AI as part of its broader review of the booming generative artificial intelligence sector to see if it raises any competition concerns.

The 27-nation bloc’s executive commission said Tuesday in a brief statement that it’s analyzing the agreement between the two companies announced a day earlier. Microsoft declined to comment. Mistral did not respond to a request for comment.

Microsoft said Monday it was teaming up with Mistral through a 15 million euro ($16 million) investment in the French company, which emerged less than a year ago. The agreement could cut the U.S. software giant’s reliance on ChatGPT-maker OpenAI for supplying the next wave of chatbots and other generative AI products.

The commission, the EU’s top antitrust enforcer, said it’s including the deal as part of its broader review of the generative AI market. It’s examining agreements between digital tech giants and generative AI developers and providers.

The EU last month started looking into Microsoft’s multibillion deal with San Francisco-based OpenAI, which could lead to a formal merger investigation. Mistral AI emerged less than a year ago but is already what Microsoft described Monday as an “innovator and trailblazer” at the vanguard of building more efficient and cost-effective AI systems.

Microsoft and Mistral didn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal, though Microsoft said it involves a small investment in the Paris-based startup. That suggests it is far smaller than Microsoft’s investment of billions of dollars into OpenAI, a years-long relationship that has attracted the scrutiny of antitrust regulators in the U.S. and Europe.

Mistral on Monday released a public test version of its own chatbot, called Le Chat, that apparently was flooded with so much interest that a company executive said it was temporarily unavailable for part of the day. The company also announced its newest large language model, Mistral Large, which it claims is in the same league as competitors such as OpenAI’s GPT-4, Anthropic’s Claude 2 and Google’s Gemini Pro and will be available on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform.

Mistral has also previously said it is teaming up with other big cloud providers including Amazon and Google. / AP


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