That's "billion" with a "b."

Microsoft Sam

It's no secret that OpenAI and its chief financier Microsoft are charging ahead in a bid to make AI the next big thing in computing.

But a new scoop puts a new dollar figure on exactly how deep that commitment runs: citing unnamed sources familiar with the project, The Information is reporting that the dynamic duo are working on a $100 billion — that's "billion" with a "b," meaning a sum exceeding many countries' gross domestic products — on a hush-hush supercomputer designed to train powerful new AI.

OpenAI didn't respond to Quartz's request for comment about the facility, reportedly codenamed Stargate and scheduled to go online in 2028, but Microsoft didn't push back against the reporting in a statement it provided.

"Microsoft has demonstrated its ability to build pioneering AI infrastructure used to train and deploy the world’s leading AI models," a Microsoft spokesperson told the site. "We are always planning for the next generation of infrastructure innovations needed to continue pushing the frontier of AI capability."

Money Makers

Needless to say, that's a mammoth investment. As such, it shines an even brighter spotlight on a looming question for the still-nascent AI industry: how's the whole thing going to pay for itself?

So far, most companies in the space — Microsoft and OpenAI included — have offered significant AI services for free, sometimes with a more advanced upsell version like OpenAI's ChatGPT Plus.

It's certainly possible that a few winners will emerge with that subscription model, since many people already cough up comparable monthly sums for services like streaming video. But it's harder to imagine freemium keeping a particularly broad industry afloat, and even OpenAI already seems concerned about keeping costs down, as evidenced by its tooth-and-nail fight to avoid paying for training data.

And a fresh $100 billion commitment — nevermind the staggering power and upkeep costs for such a facility — won't do anything to reduce that pressure.

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