Microsoft revealed yesterday (Sept. 21) the expansion of its AI Copilot capabilities, following Google’s announcement earlier in the week that Bard can now be used with its apps, including Gmail, YouTube, and Drive. It’s the latest in a string of tech companies racing to find ways to integrate AI into all of their product offerings.
At a Microsoft event in New York City on Thursday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the company’s vision is to have a version of an everyday AI companion that follows you across all apps and operating devices.
Microsoft also said that companies will be able to start buying Microsoft 365 Copilot, the AI assistant available across Office apps such as Word and Excel, starting on Nov. 1. The Copilot will cost $30 per user per month, in addition to what businesses already pay for Office products.
Where we are with AI assistants
About 600 companies have been testing Microsoft 365 Copilot since the tool was first announced in March, according to the company. The most popular use cases for businesses, said Colette Stallbaumer, general manager of the future of work at Microsoft, is using the AI assistant to summarize meetings as well as to highlight important emails and summarize emails—in other words, do some of the work that we dread doing ourselves.
It’s not clear just yet how productive these tools will make us. “We’re just setting all that up now in terms of the infrastructure of how we will measure,” said Stallbaumer. “It’s really early days.”
Stallbaumer mentioned that businesses that have been testing the AI assistant have been asking her how should they teach their workers how to use these tools. One simple fix: Remind users what AI can do. When you open one of Microsoft’s apps, you might be asked, “Do you want to summarize something?” or “Do you want to create something?”
Tech companies say they want to make safe and reliable AI systems
The idea that you can generate a PowerPoint deck using all your past conversations in Outlook means that these tools need a whole lot of your data in order to get a rich result. At the same time, amid public pressure, Microsoft, Google, and other tech companies say they want to create safe and reliable AI systems.
With Bard being integrated across all apps, “it’s the first time people are being asked to integrate their personal details into a language,” said Jack Krawczyk, a product director at Google, told Quartz last week. Users can opt or revoke access to their personal data, he said. And, according to Microsoft, the user is in control of whether the history of a chat is kept or discarded.
Eventually, users will have to decide whether and how to embrace more automation in their personal and professional lives.