Microsoft Creating AI Updates for Business Productivity Apps

Microsoft is giving its Office 365 productivity suite an AI update using OpenAI technology, including GPT-4, to power the new Microsoft 365 Copilot, “your copilot for work.” In February, Microsoft generated attention by adding ChatGPT to its Bing search platform, but it says Copilot is a much bigger deal. Combining the power of large language models with data in the Microsoft 365 apps, Copilot promises “more agency” via natural language, a “universal interface.” A new Business Chat feature turns prompts like “update my team on the new product strategy” into a summary of the latest meeting notes, emails and chat threads.

Microsoft says Copilot will roll out in the months ahead, but “it is starting by giving the tech to 20 customers, including eight of America’s largest companies,” according to The Wall Street Journal, which interviewed company CEO Satya Nadella, who did not name the companies, nor say “when or if it would charge extra for the upgrade.”

In a blog post Microsoft promised pricing and licensing details would be coming “soon,” and said “in the months ahead, we’re bringing Copilot to all our productivity apps — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams, Viva, Power Platform, and more.”

The software giant, WSJ writes, “has gone all-in on generative AI. The company has invested about $13 billion in ChatGPT creator OpenAI. The market is responding favorably to Microsoft’s foresight, sending shares up 4 percent Thursday on the Copilot news.

“Where Bing search is largely about pulling answers from the web, Microsoft’s workplace software has many types of customers with varying and complex demands. That’s why the company is taking a more measured approach with this release,” WSJ writes, quoting Nadella saying that “what is happening in Word is different from what is happening in Excel from what’s happening in Teams, and you want to make sure we get all of these things right.”

Examples of Copilot’s functionality include a Word user highlighting a paragraph so the app “can offer different options for a rewritten version,” or turning document text into a PowerPoint presentation with a simple command, WSJ says, noting “inside Excel, the spreadsheet tool, Copilot can help users analyze sales data, determine trends and create charts without becoming Excel experts.”

On The New York Times technology podcast “Hard Fork,” Representative Don Beyer (D-Virginia) called artificial intelligence “the most amazing technology since fire.” The New York Times wrote of the Copilot announcement that while the world’s collective ambition for AI may be lofty, productivity will be the area with the earliest impact and profitability.

Last week, Alphabet announced that it will in the coming weeks begin testing generative AI features in Google Workspace that allow similar capabilities — autogenerating reports and offering alternative edits on writing assignments.

Microsoft Announces Copilot: the AI-Powered Future of Office Documents, The Verge, 3/16/23
Microsoft’s New Copilot Will Change Office Documents Forever, The Verge, 3/17/23
Google Announces AI Features in Gmail, Docs, and More to Rival Microsoft, The Verge, 3/14/23

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