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OpenAI launches $20 ChatGPT Plus in search of greater revenue

The new paid subscription tier will offer users improved access to the service, and a model built for businesses could be on the way

OpenAI has announced ChatGPT Plus, a paid tier for its famed chatbot which will offer users faster response times as well as access to the tool even during peak hours.

The new tier is being launched through a US-exclusive pilot scheme, and will cost $20 (£16) per month.

OpenAI stated that access will expand to other countries and regions 'soon' and that free access to the free service will continue. 

Users who are willing to pay for the service will also receive priority access to the latest updates and features to the service, though the firm has not specified if this would apply to newer models such as the anticipated GPT-4.

OpenAI confirmed it's considering other paid options, including business plans and lower-cost deals. It did not explain what could differentiate these plans from ChatGPT Plus, though the business plan could seek to provide access to GPT models at the scale and volume required by large enterprises.

Paid tiers will help fund the free generative AI service for other users, which OpenAI runs at great cost.

Experts had questioned the profitability of the company and its continued ability to operate in the wake of CEO Sam Altman’s tweet stating “we will have to monetise it somehow at some point; the compute costs are eye-watering”.

Although it does not publicly report operating costs experts such as Tom Goldstein, associate professor in the department of computer science at the University of Maryland, have estimated that the cost of running ChatGPT alone is high.

“I estimate the cost of running ChatGPT is $100,000 (£81,773) per day, or $3 million (£2.4 million) per month,” Goldstein tweeted

ChatGPT's popularity boom

OpenAI is also working on a ChatGPT API, for which there is currently a waitlist. This could enable developers to use ChatGPT more seamlessly with products and services such as chatbots on company websites, or to aggregate and translate information using ChatGPT’s pre-trained models.

“We launched ChatGPT as a research preview so we could learn more about the system’s strengths and weaknesses and gather user feedback to help us improve upon its limitations,” OpenAI stated in a blog post announcing the pilot.

“Since then, millions of people have given us feedback, we’ve made several important updates and we’ve seen users find value across a range of professional use cases, including drafting and editing content, brainstorming ideas, programming help, and learning new topics.”

Microsoft’s multi-billion dollar deal with OpenAI, which has aligned the companies closely without resulting in an outright acquisition by the Redmond-based giant, is set to rebalance the market for generative AI.

The firm has already announced plans for a general release of ChatGPT on Azure OpenAI, as well as OpenAI’s image generation model DALL·E.

The release of Microsoft Teams Premium has also seen OpenAI’s GPT 3.5 model integrated within the productivity platform.

It is intended to improve quality of life across Teams through features such as automatically-generated meeting notes, and recommended tasks personalised to users.

Reuters reported that the firm is projecting $200 million (£162 million) in revenue across 2023, and $1 billion (£812 million) by 2024.

OpenAI currently has 375 employees, but has dozens of roles open at the time of writing, across a range of specialisms.

Although it has dominated headlines, OpenAI is not the sole player in the field of generative AI. A number of free alternatives for generating text using pre-trained models are available online. which force the firm to distinguish the unique benefits of its platform as it asks users to pay for use.

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Insiders claim that Google has ‘upended’ internal teams to compete with ChatGPT, following concerns that the decades-old player in AI could face reputational damage and sacrifice market control if it lost out to the relatively young OpenAI. 

CNBC reported that this includes a product codenamed ‘Apprentice Bard’, which will utilise Google’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) and operates in a similar manner to ChatGPT. It also alleged that Google is internally trialling a variant of its search page which offers conversational answers to search terms.

This could put Google in more direct competition with Microsoft, which is reportedly seeking to integrate ChatGPT within Bing search to improve user experience and provide a richer user experience.

Both companies will have to tackle latent issues with current AI models that allow them to produce incorrect answers with a high degree of confidence, which could affect the accuracy of search results produced directly by a model.

IT Pro has approached OpenAI for comment.

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