Microsoft’s 365 productivity suite is the latest to get an injection of AI, with Redmond using what felt like an hours-long webcast to say Copilot AI will soon be available across the entire suite.
If you’re aware of Microsoft’s addition of Copilot to its Dynamics 365 CRM and ERP software earlier this month, then you already know what’s coming to Microsoft 365: a natural-language-based user interface that can draw upon your documents to spit out answers or perform actions in response to whatever a user asks or requests, or so that’s the hope.
With Dynamics 365, Copilot was all about smoothing workflow in CRM and ERP software, and now it can do the same thing with workflows in Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Teams, and Power Platform.
This technology is said to be powered by OpenAI’s experimental text-generating GPT-4 family, the same line of tech that insisted one of our very-much-alive contributors was dead. OpenAI’s CEO described GPT-4 as “flawed,” indicating it was still a work-in-progress.
Along with Copilot’s new presence in traditional Office apps, Microsoft also announced the launch of a new Microsoft 365 tool called Business Chat, which seems designed to crawl indexed files from a variety of sources for inclusion in Copilot-generated responses to your queries about that data.
Business Chat will be able to pull information from “documents, presentations, email, calendar, notes and contacts to help summarize chats, write emails, find key dates or even write a plan based on other project files,” Microsoft claimed.
All of this, opined Microsoft’s Jared Spataro, VP of modern work and business applications, will help us reconnect to “the soul of our work” by getting rid of drudgery. The described features are due to roll out over the coming months, we’re told.
Redmond’s demo showed the capabilities are what you’d expect from a next-gen AI model. If Copilot is asked, for example, to “prepare me for my upcoming meeting,” it can look at the calendar to get info about the subject of the meeting, then turn to other documents or notes to generate a summary of key things to keep in mind.
The Windows 11 maker also demonstrated Copilot generating a PowerPoint presentation from a press release, using it to sort and analyze data in Excel and even offering a summary of what happened at a meeting that an attendee was late to.
Microsoft 365 Copilot was also shown to have the ability to talk to its Dynamics 365 cousin, as a demo displayed it updating CRM records in relation to work done in Microsoft 365 apps.
Copilot lawsuit? What Copilot lawsuit?
The IT goliath made a point in both its streamed announcement and the related press release that Copilot was built “with [Microsoft’s] existing commitments to data security and privacy in the enterprise, grounded in AI principles and Responsible AI Standard and decades of research,” as the biz put it.
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Microsoft also made a point to mention that “Copilot’s large language models are not trained on customer content or on individual prompts,” the closest it came to mentioning the copyright lawsuit it’s facing over the original incarnation of Copilot, which got its start assisting programmers on GitHub.
According to the ongoing suit, Microsoft trained Copilot on public GitHub repositories, allegedly not paying mind to the open-source licenses associated with such data collections. When queried, the complaint alleges, GitHub Copilot regurgitated code nearly identical to the material it was trained on. Plaintiffs in the case argue that’s a violation of licensing agreements.
Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI asked that suit to be tossed in January for not having standing. As of writing, the case is still open and the judge has yet to issue a ruling on the motion to dismiss.
Finally, Google scrambled earlier this week to say, as a bit of a spoiler to Microsoft’s big announcement, it was bringing similar language-driven artificial intelligence to its suite of office applications. ®