Microsoft announces generative AI-powered Copilot 365 to ‘change work as we know it’

Microsoft announces generative AI-powered Copilot 365 to ‘change work as we know it’

In a pre-recorded demo event dubbed “The Future of Work With AI“— that felt to this reporter like a highly-produced infomercial (‘Wait, there’s more!’) — Microsoft capped an epic week in generative AI by announcing Copilot 365 to “change work as we know it.”

Layering on to its previous “Copilot” verbiage that accompanied its Bing announcements last month, Copilot 365 combines large language models — namely GPT-4, which Microsoft confirmed powers Bing — with Microsoft Graph data (from your calendar, emails, chats, documents, meetings) and Microsoft 365 apps including Teams, Word, Outlook and Excel.

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For example, by plugging into your calendar and email, Copilot 365 can help you get ready for the day, generating bullets for you to focus on in your next meeting. It can also generate documents based on existing documents; create a PowerPoint, complete with layouts and images; use natural language to analyze data in Excel; and automatically capture meeting notes.

In addition to being embedded in 365 apps, Copilot is also offered as a sidekick in a new Business Chat experience. According to a Microsoft blog post, Business Chat “works alongside you, using the power of the Microsoft Graph to bring together data from across your documents, presentations, email, calendar, notes, and contacts. Bring together information from multiple sources to keep everyone on the team on the same page and moving forward together. Spend less time focused on the tools and more time focused on the most important work. Today, our preview customers will be able to access Business Chat in Microsoft Teams.”

In a separate announcement, Microsoft also debuted the new Copilot in Power Platform for AI-powered no-code/low-code software development, including:  

  • Copilot in Power Apps: Describe what you want the app to do, and it will generate a data table. You can then refine and improve the app with natural language.

Microsoft Copilot 365 offers starting point for nearly all knowledge work

Copilot now essentially becomes the starting point for all knowledge work in Microsoft.

Forrester AI analyst Rowan Curran weighed in on the announcements. “Embedding generative AI capabilities like text and image generation into everyday office and productivity tools has the potential to significantly change people’s workflows in an enormous swath of job roles,” he told VentureBeat. “Having capabilities to generate a summarization of a white paper into a blog post and the ability to do it within your core productivity app reduces the friction around integrating these tools into workflows, because the user doesn’t have to go to a different tool to use them.”

However, he pointed out that the models become far more powerful when they are fine-tuned on a company’s specific data.

“When the major productivity suite providers start enabling this capability is when we may start to see an acceleration of the use of these capabilities, even if they don’t immediately take off in their initial version,” he said.

The impacts might not transform the workplace tomorrow, he explained. “But the wheel has started rolling forward,” he added, “and over the next several years we can expect to see compounding effects from the use of these embedded generative capabilities.”

Microsoft caps an epic generative AI week

The Microsoft Copilot 365 release caps an epic week in generative AI that began with Google’s Monday announcements of new generative AI capabilities and features for developers, through a PaLM API and in Google Cloud, as well as new integrations for users of Google Workspace, including in Gmail and Google Docs.

Google’s announcements felt far more like a generative AI laundry list than Microsoft’s finely-honed marketing effort. And they come just a month after Google unveiled its search chatbot Bard and less than a week after Bloomberg reported that a new internal Google directive “requires generative AI to be incorporated into all of its biggest products within months.”

The hot AI productivity party continues

Still, this two-horse Big Tech productivity race shows no signs of slowing down. One bigger question is what will happen to the hot AI productivity app party that’s been dancing its way around Silicon Valley for months now.

For example, can the start-up productivity darlings, from Jasper and Tome to HyperWrite and Writer, compete with Microsoft and Google’s offerings? Or will Big Tech take over this dance floor for good?

This story is being updated…

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