Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
Microsoft on Wednesday announced a slew of new capabilities coming to the Copilot artificial intelligence add-on for its Microsoft 365 productivity applications.
In the year since Microsoft-backed OpenAI introduced the popular ChatGPT virtual assistant, companies have expressed interest in how AI might make their workers more efficient, and several other software makers, including Adobe, Google and Salesforce, have also come out with tools.
There are concerns about whether Copilot for Microsoft 365 is worth $30 per person per month. Many analysts expected a lower price when Microsoft announced its decision in July. Now Microsoft is responding by extending the feature list while maintaining the price.
Until this point, Copilot could show personalized action items from missed meetings in Outlook, prepare draft PowerPoint presentations, create illustrations of information in Word documents and generate forecasts based on existing data in Excel files. A chat feature informed by internal organizational data could summarize unread email messages, recommend changes to files and come up with highlights for documents.
A new Copilot Studio service will give corporate workers an easy way to enrich Copilot’s knowledge with newly integrated data from business software such as ServiceNow and Workday. Copilot Studio is “tucked into the $30 price point, so it really bolsters the value,” said Jared Spataro, a Microsoft corporate vice president, told CNBC in an interview.
Here are some of the other enhancements coming for those with Copilot licenses:
- In Teams, Copilot will be able to answer questions about meetings as they happen, even if it doesn’t create a transcription or recording. People who wish to save AI-generated content during meetings will have to copy it and save it elsewhere.
- If at least one person in a Teams meeting has a license, Copilot can record notes live, and participants will be able to ask it to follow instructions such as, “Write down what Dana said as a quote.”
- Copilot will be able to create Teams chat messages and come up with tone changes.
- During Teams meetings, the Whiteboard tool can automatically create visualizations of ideas that people discuss.
- In Outlook, the Copilot can help plan meetings, proposing attendees, agendas and lists of recommended documents to share with participants.
- In PowerPoint, Copilot will be able to create slides that include AI-generated images based on brand assets, with the help of the Microsoft Designer app.
- People will be able to enter formatting and style preferences for the assistant’s output in Word and PowerPoint.
Some early users of Copilot were already content with what it could do before this week’s updates, which Microsoft executives are discussing at the company’s Ignite conference in Seattle.
Microsoft allowed Visa to offer a small number of licenses through a preview, and soon it will give Copilot to most employees, said Rajat Taneja, the payment company’s president of technology. Taneja was among the first Visa employees to try Copilot. He’s constantly using it. It summarizes PowerPoint presentations and other documents on his behalf.
“You can use it for drafting communication — a speech, a message — or editing something you’ve already written, and it does a pretty good job of doing that,” he said.
A few hundred employees at Visa now have Copilot licenses. The company has surveyed the group, and the vast majority of respondents said they would be disappointed to lose access, Taneja said.
The perspective at Visa aligns with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s portrayal of Copilot’s reception as of late October.
“Customers tell us that once they use Copilot, they can’t imagine work without it,” he said on a conference call with analysts.
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