(Brussels) The European competition watchdog will examine Microsoft’s investment in the pioneer of generative artificial intelligence, OpenAI, a sign of growing concern about the domination of this crucial market by a handful of American giants.

The European Commission is “verifying whether Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI,” the creator of ChatGPT, “may be subject to review under the EU Merger Regulation,” it said on Tuesday .

Since the start of their partnership in 2019, the software giant has invested around $13 billion in the California start-up founded in 2015. Microsoft announced in late November that a representative from the group would join OpenAI’s board of directors as an observer.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is expected in California on Thursday and Friday where she is due to participate in a conference on antitrust in the technology sector in Palo Alto and meet several big bosses.

She will speak with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, as well as two OpenAI leaders: Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati and Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon. .

“Since 2019, we have forged a partnership with OpenAI that has fostered greater innovation and competition in AI, while preserving the independence of the two companies,” responded a Microsoft spokesperson. “The only thing that has changed recently is that Microsoft will now have a non-voting observer on the OpenAI board,” he added.

Generative AI makes it possible to create texts, photos, sounds or videos in just a few seconds, in response to a user request, for a wide range of uses.

Technology, whose growth is expected to be exponential, will revolutionize the work of certain professions, with an increase in productivity and an expected big impact on the competitiveness of companies.

Venture capital investments in AI in the EU are estimated at more than €7.2 billion in 2023. Europe hopes to have future champions like Aleph Alpha in Germany and Mistral AI in France.

The European Union agreed at the beginning of December on an unprecedented regulation of AI at the global level. It must make it possible to avoid certain excesses while promoting the growth of the market.

The EU has also adopted a Digital Markets Regulation (DMA) which will apply at the beginning of March to better combat the anti-competitive practices of the giants of the sector.

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to become the museum of antitrust horrors if we do nothing,” Benoit Cœuré, president of the French Competition Authority, declared at the end of November during a round table in Paris.

“There are reasons to be concerned. We risk seeing in this area the entire catalog of anti-competitive practices […] that is to say tied selling, grouped selling, obstacles to access to data, conglomerate effects and self-preference. -he explains.

The British competition watchdog (CMA) also announced at the beginning of December that it was examining the partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI.

The CMA therefore launched a call for comments “from interested parties and third parties”.

The European Commission initiated a similar approach, announcing on Tuesday that it was launching “two calls for contributions on competition”, one concerning “generative artificial intelligence” and the other “virtual worlds”.

Virtual worlds are immersive environments, based on 3D and extended reality technologies, used in particular for design or simulation tasks.

The Commission specifies that it has sent “requests for information to several major digital players”. It says it wants to gather views “on how competition law can help ensure that these new markets remain competitive.”