French company Mistral, now supported by Microsoft, launches conversational AI – 02/27/2024 at 08:55

Mistral AI CEO Arthur Mensch in Bletchley, UK on November 2, 2023. (POOL/TOBY MELVILLE)

The French company Mistral AI, one of the two champions of AI in Europe, struck a major blow by unveiling on Monday, less than a year after its creation, a partnership with Microsoft and its conversational AI.

At the same time as its new Mistral Large language model, the third unveiled by the company, Mistral announced the existence of “Chat”, a nod to the precursor ChatGPT from the American Open AI.

The French group, valued at around $2 billion, according to financial sources, boasts performance comparable to that of GPT-4. The difference is that it currently offers conversational AI dedicated to businesses, and not to the general public.

The Mistral Large model is available from Monday for customers of Azure AI, the Microsoft platform, with which Mistral is announcing a partnership, without revealing the terms.

“This is an important milestone for us, as the unrivaled performance of this multilingual model continues to push the boundaries of what is possible with cutting-edge artificial intelligence,” Mistral AI co-founder Arthur Mensch said. in a press release.

Microsoft, for its part, welcomed this partnership with the start-up described as “pioneering and innovative”. This “is based on a common commitment to offer safe and reliable AI systems and products,” said the American giant.

According to the Financial Times, Microsoft has made a small-scale investment in Mistral.

– Global vocation –

Created in April 2023, Mistral AI, whose three French founders come from the ranks of Meta (parent company of Facebook) and Google, has always expressed its desire to offer an alternative to the models of large American “tech” companies.

“We are following a clear ambition: to create a European champion with a global vocation in artificial intelligence,” one of its co-founders, Arthur Mensch, declared in December in a press release.

The launch of ChatGPT, then the publication of other models across the Atlantic, had triggered a race against time on the European side.

“There is a subject of fairly strong cultural dependence” on the United States in terms of AI, Arthur Mensch pointed out in October. Unlike its American counterparts, Mistral AI, for example, focuses on the development of “open source” models, usable by everyone.

The new model unveiled on Monday is also configured in five languages ​​(French, English, German, Spanish and Italian).

– A “champion” France –

A desire for independence encouraged by the political sphere: while Mistral AI successfully raised 105 million euros in June 2023, Emmanuel Macron proclaimed his wish to see France become a “champion” in the field. .

In mid-January, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen encouraged the EU to “redouble its efforts” so as not to be left behind.

France has particularly positioned itself in the race for AI in Europe: in addition to the encouragement given to the launch of Mistral AI by the President of the Republic, the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire recently insisted on his desire to see emerge “an AI model that is specific to France (…)” and creates jobs.

In mid-February, a research “hub” dedicated to AI was inaugurated by Google in Paris, and the country will host the next in-person edition of a summit on AI security.

But few European companies can claim the title of serious competitors to ChatGPT and others Gemini (Google) and Copilot (Microsoft): besides Mistral AI, only the German Aleph Alpha has such ambitions.

And the desire for European sovereignty is threatened by the very large sums invested in the United States. In November, and despite fundraising of 500 million euros, the CEO of Aleph Alpha worried about seeing his company “in existential danger” after learning that an additional 13 billion dollars had been injected into OpenAI.

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