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Microsoft hires DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman to run new consumer AI unit

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Microsoft hires DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman to run new consumer AI unit

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Microsoft has hired Mustafa Suleyman, the co-founder of Google’s DeepMind and chief executive of artificial intelligence start-up Inflection, to run a new consumer AI unit.

Suleyman, a British entrepreneur who co-founded DeepMind in London in 2010, will report to Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, the company announced on Tuesday. He will launch a division of Microsoft that brings consumer-facing products including Microsoft’s Copilot, Bing, Edge and GenAI under one team called Microsoft AI.

It is the latest move by Microsoft to capitalise on the boom in generative AI. It has invested $13bn in OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, and rapidly integrated its technology into Microsoft products.

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Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI has given it an early lead in Silicon Valley’s race to deploy AI, leaving its biggest rival, Google, struggling to catch up. It also has invested in other AI start-ups, including French developer Mistral.

It has been rolling out an AI assistant in its products such as Windows, Office software and cyber security tools. Suleyman’s unit will work on projects including integrating an AI version of Copilot into its Windows operating system and enhancing the use of generative AI in its Bing search engine.

Nadella said in a statement on Tuesday: “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.”

DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014 for $500mn, one of the first large bets by a big tech company on a start-up AI lab. The company faced controversy a few years later over some of its projects, including its work for the UK healthcare sector, which was found by a government watchdog to have been granted inappropriate access to patient records.

Suleyman, who was the main public face for the company, was placed on leave in 2019. DeepMind workers had complained that he had an overly aggressive management style. Addressing staff complaints at the time, Suleyman said: “I really screwed up. I was very demanding and pretty relentless.”

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He moved to Google months later, where he led AI product management. In 2022 he joined Silicon Valley venture capital firm Greylock and launched Inflection later that year.

Microsoft will also hire most of Inflection’s staff, including Karén Simonyan, co-founder and chief scientist of Inflection, who will be chief scientist of the AI group. Microsoft did not clarify the number of employees moving over but said it included AI engineers, researchers and large language model builders who have designed and co-authored “many of the most important contributions in advancing AI over the last five years”.

Inflection, a rival to OpenAI, will switch its focus from its consumer chatbot, Pi, and instead move to sell enterprise AI software to businesses, according to a statement on its website. Sean White, who has held various technology roles, has joined as its new chief executive.

Inflection’s third co-founder, Reid Hoffman, the founder and executive chair of LinkedIn, will remain on Inflection’s board. Inflection had raised $1.3bn in June, valuing the group at about $4bn, in one of the largest fundraisings by an AI start-up amid an explosion of interest in the sector.

The new unit marks a big organisational shift at Microsoft. Mikhail Parakhin, its president of web services, will move along with his entire team to report to Suleyman.

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“We have a real shot to build technology that was once thought impossible and that lives up to our mission to ensure the benefits of AI reach every person and organisation on the planet, safely and responsibly,” Nadella said.

Competition regulators in the US and Europe have been scrutinising the relationship between Microsoft and OpenAI amid a broader inquiry into AI investments.

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Boeing burns through $4bn in first quarter after door plug blowout

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Boeing burns through $4bn in first quarter after door plug blowout

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Boeing burnt through almost $4bn of cash in the first quarter, reflecting slower 737 Max production and compensation to customers as the US plane maker grappled with the aftermath of the mid-air accident in January.

The $3.9bn of free cash outflow is slightly lower than the $4bn-4.5bn the company had warned in March, but compares with an outflow of $786mn for the same period last year. Boeing reported a $355mn net loss in the first quarter.

The company’s financial results “reflect the immediate actions we’ve taken to slow down 737 production to drive improvements in quality”, said chief executive Dave Calhoun.

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There has been a 500 per cent increase in reports to Boeing’s internal safety hotline compared with last year.

The company is working to improve processes including training, inspection and how “travelled work” where jets that move through the production line with problems addressed later in the assembly process, is handled in the 737 factory in Renton, Washington. Boeing also is attempting to stabilise its supply chain.

“Near term, yes, we are in a tough moment,” said Calhoun in a letter to staff on Wednesday. “Lower deliveries can be difficult for our customers and our financials. But safety and quality must and will come above all else.”

The plane maker is building fewer than 38 Maxes per month, reducing deliveries that are necessary to bring in cash in order to improve the quality of its manufacturing following the mid-air blowout of a door plug on an Alaska Airlines flight.

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Boeing faces investigations by aviation regulators and the US Justice Department. Though no one was killed, the explosive loss of cabin pressure injured some on board and recalled the two fatal crashes that led to the worldwide grounding of the Max for nearly two years.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that four bolts meant to fasten the panel to the fuselage were missing.

A US Federal Aviation Administration audit of Boeing found “multiple instances” where it allegedly failed to meet manufacturing and quality control requirements. Regulators have given the company until the end of May to submit a plan to improve.

Boeing said on Wednesday it was “implementing a comprehensive action plan” to address the audit’s findings.

The company did not issue any financial guidance for the year on Wednesday. It initially declined to issue guidance in January, with Calhoun saying “now is not the time”.

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The 737’s troubles have led to a shake-up in Boeing leadership. Calhoun said last month he would step down as Boeing chief executive at the end of the year, with the chair of the board Larry Kellner leaving after the annual meeting in May. Stan Deal, head of Boeing’s commercial plane division, departed immediately.

Boeing shares rose 3.6 per cent in pre-market trading after closing on Tuesday at $169.28.

Baird analyst Peter Arment said the stock represented “a buying opportunity”. “The kitchen sink quarter was not bad as feared, with progress expected on production, deliveries and [free cash flow] in the coming quarters coupled with a management change,” he said.

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U.S. tourist faces 12 years in prison after bringing ammunition to Turks and Caicos

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U.S. tourist faces 12 years in prison after bringing ammunition to Turks and Caicos

An Oklahoma man faces up to 12 years in prison on a Caribbean island after customs officials found ammunition in his luggage.

Ryan Watson traveled to Turks and Caicos with his wife, Valerie, to celebrate his 40th birthday on April 7. They went with two friends who also turned 40.

The vacation came to an abrupt end when airport staff found a Ziploc containing bullets in the couple’s carry-on luggage. Watson said it was hunting ammunition he had accidentally brought with him — but a strict law in Turks and Caicos may still see a court imposing a mandatory 12-year sentence.

“They were hunting ammunition rounds that I use for whitetail deer,” Watson told NBC Boston in an interview conducted last week that aired after their first court appearance Tuesday.

“I recognized them and I thought, ‘Oh man, what a bonehead mistake that I had no idea that those were in there,’” he said.

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The couple were arrested and charged with possession of ammunition. Authorities seized their passports and explained the penalties they faced.

“When I heard that, I immediately was terrified because I was like, we can’t both be in prison for 12 years. We have kids at home and this is such an innocent mistake,” Valerie Watson said in the interview.

The charges against her were dropped and she returned home to Oklahoma City on Tuesday after the court hearing to be reunited with her two young children.

“Our goal is to get Ryan home because we can’t be a family without Dad,” she said.

The couple also spoke of the financial burden of a much longer-than-planned trip. “This is something that we may never recover from,” Ryan Watson said.

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The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas issued a warning to travelers in September about a law that strongly prohibits possession of firearms or ammunition in Turks and Caicos, an overseas British territory southeast of the Bahamas.

It said: “We wish to remind all travelers that declaring a weapon in your luggage with an airline carrier does not grant permission to bring the weapon into TCI [Turks and Caicos Islands] and will result in your arrest.”

The embassy added: “If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, we will not be able to secure your release from custody.”

NBC News has contacted the embassy and the government in Turks and Caicos for comment.

The same thing happened to another American, Bryan Hagerich, from Pennsylvania, who was arrested after ammunition was found in his luggage before he attempted to board a flight out of Turks and Caicos in February. He said he accidentally left it in his bag.

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Hagerich was on a family vacation with his wife and two young children but has now been in the country for 70 days. He spent eight days in prison before posting bail.

“It’s incredibly scary. You know, you just don’t know what the next day may bring. You know, what path this may take,” Hagerich told NBC Boston.

“You know, it’s certainly a lot different than packing your bags and going away with your family for a few days. It’s been the worst 70 days of my life,” he said.

Once a professional baseball player, Hagerich was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the MLB 2007 June Amateur Draft from the University of Delaware.

His case goes to trial on May 3.

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US Senate passes $95bn bill including aid for Ukraine

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US Senate passes $95bn bill including aid for Ukraine

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The US Senate has approved a $95bn bill to deliver security aid to Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific region with overwhelming bipartisan support, in a boost to Joe Biden’s top foreign policy priorities.

The final passage of the legislation in Congress on Tuesday ended a political logjam that had lasted for months and paved the way for Washington to quickly dispatch new weapons to Ukraine as it battles Russia’s full-scale invasion. US officials said some aid for Kyiv would be forthcoming within days.

The bill will also bolster US military assistance for Israel — which has exchanged drone attacks and missile strikes with Iran over the past 10 days — and comes despite mounting tensions between the White House and Israeli leaders over the country’s war in Gaza against Hamas and the heavy Palestinian civilian casualties.

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The approval represents a legislative victory for Biden as he faces an election match-up against Donald Trump in November and a defeat for foreign policy isolationists, particularly Republican lawmakers close to the former president, who had been holding up support for Kyiv for months.

The bill won support from 79 senators, with 18 voting against.

Biden immediately cheered the bill’s passage, saying he would sign it on Wednesday. Aid could start reaching Ukraine as early as this week. “Congress has passed my legislation to strengthen our national security and send a message to the world about the power of American leadership: we stand resolutely for democracy and freedom, and against tyranny and oppression.”

John Kirby, the White House National Security Council spokesperson, said: “Mr Putin thinks he can play for time, so we’ve got to try to make up some of that time.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also thanked the US Senate shortly after the vote, which he said “reinforces America’s role as a beacon of democracy and leader of the free world”.

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Zelenskyy emphasised the importance of long-range capabilities, artillery and air defence systems. Dwindling stocks of anti-air missiles have in recent weeks allowed Russian forces to launch wide-ranging missile attacks targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructures.

The highest hurdle for the bill was cleared on Saturday after Mike Johnson, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, decided to bring Ukraine aid up for a vote despite months of internal divisions and opposition from some rank-and-file lawmakers such as Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who threatened to oust him from his role.

Supporters of the legislation from both parties and in the White House saw its passage as a bittersweet victory because of the time it took for it to pass Congress.

“So much of the hesitation and short-sightedness that has delayed this moment is premised on sheer fiction,” Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, said on Tuesday, blaming Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host who recently interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, for “demonising” Ukraine.

“Make no mistake: delay in providing Ukraine the weapons to defend itself has strained the prospects of defeating Russian aggression. Dithering and hesitation have compounded the challenges we face,” McConnell said.

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Opponents of Ukraine aid continued to attack the legislation. JD Vance, the Ohio Republican senator close to Trump, likened the arguments in favour of the aid to those that led to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. “It’s the same exact talking points 20 years later with different names,” Vance said.

Some leftwing lawmakers, meanwhile, criticised the bill for allowing Israel to keep receiving offensive weapons from the US. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator, pushed for an amendment to strip those measures from the legislation, but it was not considered.

Sanders joined two Democrats and 15 Republicans who opposed the package.

“I voted no tonight on the foreign aid package for one simple reason: US taxpayers should not be providing billions more to the extremist Netanyahu government to continue its devastating war against the Palestinian people,” he said.

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