Like all good software companies these days, Microsoft is busy shoehorning AI systems into its products and services, all in the aid of making your life easier and better. However, get a little too greedy in how much you use its generative AI services and you could find yourself on the receiving end of a spot of throttling.
The devil is always in the details and as The Register reports, they're hidden away in the latest terms and conditions for its online services, specifically the section that covers its Azure OpenAI Service. The exact wording, though, does generate (pardon the pun) more questions than answers.
'Capacity Limitations: Excessive use of a Microsoft Generative AI Service may result in temporary throttling of Customer’s access to the Microsoft Generative AI Service.'
At no point does Microsoft clarify what it means by 'excessive' and 'temporary', or even what would actually happen in the throttling process. For most online systems that usually entails a cap on data transfer rates or how frequently the service can be used in a given period, but the overlords of Redwood clearly believe that giving it all an air of mystery is better than providing concrete information.
I'm somewhat tempted to poke the hornet's nest and see how hard Microsoft will actually spank me, but that would mean getting my hands dirty with the likes of Bing or Copilot. But I really, really don't want to, thank you very much.
To be serious for a moment, Microsoft's terms and conditions aren't anything out of the ordinary. In fact, it would be far more eyebrow raising if the software giant didn't impose any restrictions, but other AI providers are far more forthcoming with details and reasons behind their controls.
For example, OpenAI (with which Microsoft partners to provide its generative services) offers a comprehensive guide to its usage restrictions and limitations. I'm not suggesting that Microsoft should have something as technical and exhaustive as this, but better guidance would be useful.
Even if it's just as simple as saying giving an example of what excessive would be or wording it along the lines of 'if you want to use our AI services for this amount of work, please contact us.'
As things currently stand, with the way that the limitation is buried away in the terms and conditions, it looks like it will be a case of using it as you see fit, then wait and see what happens.
Does anybody feel like volunteering?