A good first quarter for Microsoft has meant a boost worth billions for its founder as investors rally behind the company’s innovations in artificial intelligence.
On an earnings call earlier this week the tech giant’s CEO, Satya Nadella, and his executive team revealed revenue had leapt by 7% to $52.9 billion.
Figures like a 10% increase in operating income to $22.4 billion are above analysts’ expectations, with the business highlighting growth in divisions like LinkedIn (where revenue is up 8%), Microsoft 365 Consumer (where subscribers grew to 65.4 million), and cloud service products like Azure (revenue growing 17%).
And on top of the figures came a focus on the topic of the moment: A.I.
The key phrase was mentioned some 50 times on the earnings call, JPMorgan counted, highlighting the business’s drive to stay ahead in the large language model (LLM) race.
The company already has its foot in the door with a major disrupter in the tech sector, ChatGPT creator OpenAI. In January Fortune reported that Microsoft had invested a further $10 billion in Sam Altman’s company, following the $1 billion pledged in 2019, and another $2 billion which it quietly put into OpenAI in 2021.
Microsoft revealed a raft of new A.I. deployments. Nadella said: “We have the most powerful A.I. infrastructure, and it’s being used by our partner, OpenAI, as well as Nvidia and leading A.I. startups like Adept and Inflection to train large models.
“Our Azure OpenAI Service brings together advanced models, including ChatGPT and GPT-4 with the enterprise capabilities of Azure.”
He highlighted brands such as Ikea, Unilever, Mercedes-Benz, and Shell that are all using various forms of Microsoft products powered by artificial intelligence.
“We are focused on continuing to raise the bar on our operational excellence and performance as we innovate to help our customers maximize the value of their existing technology investments and thrive in the new era of A.I.,” Nadella noted.
“In a few weeks’ time, we’ll hold our Build conference, and we will share how we are building the most powerful A.I. platform for developers. And I encourage you to tune in. I could not be more energized about the opportunities ahead.”
Of course, Microsoft is not alone in its pursuit of artificial intelligence. The race to lead the pack on A.I. is fraught with competitors—and technology bigwigs who caution that its development should be slowed down.
Meta is also ramping up its efforts in A.I. with its three top executives now spending the “majority” of their time on artificial intelligence projects.
Amazon teased its ongoing investment in the sector earlier this year, while Google has been ironing out issues with Bard, following costly inaccuracies.
Buoyed by Microsoft’s optimistic outlook, the company’s stock brice soared 9% on Wednesday adding $174 billion to its market value.
The shares logged their best single-day percentage hike since November 2022 when they rose 8.2%. However, analysts pointed out that more significantly the shares reached a milestone on an absolute basis, as they had previously never risen more than $19.77 in a single session—as they did Wednesday. They now sit at $295.37 a share.
The result of the bounce has meant that billionaire philanthropist Gates—who owns around 1% in the company with 103 million shares—saw his assets balloon by $2 billion.
The success of A.I.-backed product rollouts will be welcome news to Gates, who previously wrote in a blog that the technology is one of two innovations that have been truly revolutionary in his lifetime (the other example was the graphic user interface, or digital icons and buttons, in computing).
Gates has also rejected a proposal from the likes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak to temporarily pause the development of LLMs.
Gates, worth $122 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, said halting the process in order to introduce regulation “won’t solve the challenges” the technology poses.