On September 21 2023, Microsoft held a special event, where the company presented its latest developments that are about to go live. In an expected (announced earlier, actually) but still intriguing move, the tech giant seamlessly adds AI capabilities to its core products: Windows itself, Bing, Edge, and Microsoft 365. The umbrella name of the artificial intelligence is Copilot, a rather fitting label that doubles as a marketing gimmick and evokes images as cool as those associated with Apple products.
Let’s take a look under the hood and see what the integration means for your workflows.
What is Microsoft’s Copilot?
Copilot is Microsoft’s AI that relies on large language models and user data accumulated by the company’s services and products to deliver truly helpful advice, suggestions, answers, and solutions. First announced by GitHub (which is owned by Microsoft) on June 29, 2021, Copilot evolved and found its way into the Windows ecosystem.
Microsoft’s Copilot AI in Windows
In Windows, Copilot is an AI assistant you can summon from the taskbar or by pressing Win+C, a shortcut introduced in the upcoming Windows 11 update that is made available to current users free of charge. “Assistant” is the key word here: it is supposed to answer questions, automate routine tasks, make work, studying and life in general easier all around.
Microsoft claims seamless integration of Copilot into the ecosystem. This means the assistant will be available on all Windows 11 devices, regardless of their screen size, and capable of working alongside currently used apps.
The company also reports adding AI capabilities to Windows’ Paint, Photos, Snipping Tool, Clipchamp, Notepad, and Outlook.
From the point of view of productivity, Copilot is expected to be a powerful booster. Imagine getting answers to tricky questions without having to scan dozens of pages suggested by a search engine in response to your query, or outsourcing time-consuming chores that involve a lot of copying and pasting, or delegating recurrent tasks that you tend to forget about. Sounds good, but let’s see how it works out in reality.
Copilot and DALL.E 3 in Edge, delivered through Bing Chat
Edge may not be the most popular tool to browse the web today, but its seamless integration with AI can help grow its audience. The tech giant enhances the browser with Copilot and DALL.E 3, accessible through the BIng Chat interface.
Copilot will power Personalized Answers and help with Shopping. The former feature is probably misnamed, since, according to the description, it is more of a recommendation engine. It digs into the history of your queries to Bing Chat, which accepts natural language and gives to-the-point answers, and suggests things to do, to see, to read etc. based thereon. Privacy concerns have been addressed here: you can always switch Personalized Answers off in Bing settings.
As for shopping, Microsoft claims Copilot makes it a faster and smarter process. Through the Bing Chat interface in Edge, you can answer a number of questions the AI asks to fully understand what you need, and get tailored product suggestions at better prices than you would have found without AI assistance. One of the related upcoming capabilities currently advertised by Microsoft is shopping by picture, which pursues the same goal of simplification of selection.
DALL.E 3, in its turn, becomes part of Bing Image Creator. OpenAI, developer of the AI art tool, announces finer renderings of details (fingers, eyes, smaller items of all sorts) and better understanding of what it is asked to generate. Plus, the system can now add Content Credentials, an invisible digital watermark, to the generated art using cryptographic methods.
The catch was that Bing Chat Enterprise is available only to paying business customers, as the name of the product suggests, but the situation has changed: Microsoft announced that it is adding the chat bot to the Microsoft Edge mobile app.
Copilot in Microsoft 365
Microsoft announced adding AI capabilities to its office software suite back in March 2023. After testing the system with 20 of their larger customers, the company makes Copilot integration live and available to all users.
Essentially, this is a specialized assistant in each of the Microsoft 365 applications. In Word, it can be asked to summarize, rephrase, compose based on some inputs; in Excel – build formulas, models, breakdowns; in PowerPoint – automatically create slide decks using provided visuals and texts; in Outlook – group, summarize letters, suggest replies etc.
All in all, today, the subject of AI is paradoxically old and new at the same time. Already part of the routines and workflows of millions of people all over the world, the technology continues to evolve. Competition forces key players, including Microsoft, to finetune their products to better respond to the needs of their customers, which is ultimately a good thing for everyone involved.