What Is Microsoft Copilot? The Future of AI At Work

If you’re a Microsoft Office Suite user, then you may have heard all the buzz surrounding the new kid on the artificial intelligence (AI) block — Microsoft Copilot. This software is often referred to simply as “Copilot”, and is an AI assistant designed to serve users across all of the diverse facets of the Microsoft ecosystem. 

Developed using the latest cutting-edge large language model technology from OpenAI (the parent company of ChatGPT), Copilot has been designed to empower enterprise professionals with the seamless integration of generative AI into their day-to-day workflows. 

So, what is Microsoft 365 Copilot, and what can it do for your business? Read on to find out more…

What Is Microsoft 365 Copilot And What Can It Do? 

In case you hadn’t heard, Microsoft has introduced new AI features into its Office suite of products, including the all-singing, all-dancing Microsoft 365 Copilot. This new AI assistant combines large language models built by OpenAI to turn words into a powerful productivity tool. 

Microsoft 365 Copilot is integrated into the company’s other apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams to provide an intuitive and consistent user experience. This means that it will add the power of generative AI to your workflow to help you automate tasks easier. 

Here’s a short video by Microsoft showing the basics of Copilot:

Microsoft 365 Copilot can help you to write and create better content when using Word, with much better integration than copying back and forth using ChatGPT and other LLMs. And it can even help users doing jobs like drafting emails, creating slideshows, planning meetings, analyzing databases in Excel, and managing Outlook inbox folders.

It is very much a task-oriented AI system designed to aid in your workflows.

The AI assistant is readily accessible for those enterprises already using Microsoft 365 apps, Dynamics 365, and Windows. 

According to findings from the Microsoft Work Trend Index, 77% of Copilot users have already reported enhanced productivity, while 68% have acknowledged an improvement in the overall quality of their work. 

In addition, 365 Copilot uses its machine learning algorithms to gain an understanding of a user’s work patterns and preferences over time. This personalization aspect allows for the AI assistant to provide highly customized recommendations and insights within the Microsoft 365 environment.

What Makes 365 Copilot Different From Bing Chat?

We are fans of Bing Chat, the AI that is built into the Bing browser. If you use it on creative mode, it’s a way to get access to GPT-4 for free (though with a less engaging personality). Both Bing Chat and 365 Copilot are Microsoft AI assistants that offer similar features, however they have different target audiences.

The Bing Chat is a Large Language Model (LLM) chatbot, which can communicate in multiple languages and provide helpful responses to user queries, is available for free and can be accessed via the Bing search engine. 

On the other hand, 365 Copilot is an AI assistant that has been designed with enterprise customers in mind. This means that it offers more advanced features than Bing Chat, such as enterprise-level security, privacy, compliance, and responsible AI. 

However, it is also integrated with Microsoft 365 Apps in Windows, including Word, Excel, Outlook, Teams, PowerPoint, and more.

How Does Microsoft 365 Copilot Work?

Microsoft’s 365 Copilot leverages large language models to interact with organizational data, thus allowing users to easily write documents, compose email replies, create presentations, and generate meeting summaries, among other things. 

This means the AI assistant can help organizations to automate various tasks across the differing Microsoft 365 applications, including the drafting of emails, the creation of slideshows and meeting agendas, based on chat history, and generating professional messages from quick notes.

Microsoft’s 365 Copilot leverages large language models to interact with organizational data, thus allowing users to easily write documents, compose email replies, create presentations, and generate meeting summaries, among other things.

Other tasks that can be automated by Microsoft 365 Copilot cover the summarization of meeting discussions, the identification of meeting action items and identifying the right people for follow-ups, scheduling check-ins, creating data tables and applying back-end logic in apps, and building bots and triggering phases in Power Platform.

The AI model has been designed to respect privacy and security policies set by Microsoft, and doesn’t retain user interactions to train the LLMs. Arguably, this is an advantage over ChatGPT, which many businesses are wary of due to privacy and security concerns.

What’s The Difference Between Microsoft 365 Copilot and Google’s Duet?

Although both of these AI models were designed using natural language processing (NLP) to help users with their tasks and improve productivity, Microsoft 365 Copilot and Google’s DuetAI have quite distinct approaches, capabilities, and target audiences. 

For starters, Microsoft 365 Copilot relies heavily on the OpenAI GPT-3 (which stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3) algorithm, which is capable of understanding contextually relevant information and generating larger pieces of functioning code, just like ChatGPT. 

This makes 365 Copilot the one to choose if you need to tackle complex problems that require more intricate solutions.

On the other hand, Google’s DuetAI is based on a machine learning model, and is used more by programmers to help them with code completion suggestions, based on its analysis of millions of lines of code that’s available publicly. 

DuetAI, which has been designed to be used with Google Sheets, Docs, Slides, Gmail, and Meet 3, also uses natural language processing to help it understand the contextual clues it gets from incomplete code written by a developer, so that it can give them suggestions to complete the code, based on its training data.

So, while both Microsoft 365 Copilot and Google DuetAI leverage the NLP model, the former’s reliance on GPT-3 gives it the capability to understand contextually relevant information, as well as the ability to generate larger pieces of functioning code.

Ultimately, the choice between Duet and Copilot depends on whether you primarily use MS Office software or Google Docs software for your primary workflows.

Does Microsoft 365 Copilot Have Limitations?

There are a few limitations to Microsoft 365 Copilot that should be considered before you jump into the deep end and sign up for a subscription. For starters, if the permissions are not properly configured, then your users and the system itself may be restricted.

Plus, your users will have to adapt to a new AI-driven workflow, which can be challenging for some, and the learning curve could slow down the initial adoption of the AI assistant, as well as require you to train your workers for them to get the best out of it.

While 365 Copilot has the ability to enhance your workers’ productivity, it may also lead to a reduced reliance on their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which poses the risk of users becoming too dependent on the tool. 

There’s also the consideration of the costs associated with the use of Microsoft 365 Copilot, so the decision to adopt it into your enterprise should be based on your organization’s specific needs, which means knowing the balance between its strengths, and its potential drawbacks.

Finally, just like any other AI system, Microsoft 365 Copilot may occasionally produce errors, glitches, and hallucinations, which could potentially disrupt user workflows. Therefore, your users should be prepared for the occasional technical hiccup and have backup plans in place as a contingency.

What About Privacy Concerns?

When it comes to privacy, because the AI tool analyzes user data and behaviors to personalize output and make suggestions, this could raise privacy concerns for some enterprises.

Microsoft 365 Copilot handles input errors by reacting to prompts from users, together with the data gathered from the Microsoft Graph to respond with actions and/or text. Users can then engage with Copilot to refine and enhance the initial response until they find it acceptable. 

This “sophisticated processing and orchestration engine” (Microsoft’s own words) brings together user data stored in Microsoft 365, the Microsoft Graph, and OpenAI’s models to provide accurate and helpful responses to user inputs.

However, this means that 365 Copilot has raised privacy concerns, due to its use of organizational data and its AI capabilities. The company has taken steps to address these concerns by designing it to respect privacy and security measures set in Microsoft 365. 

Microsoft has also emphasized its commitment to comply with privacy laws and standards, such as the GDPR and ISO/IEC 27018. In addition, Copilot doesn’t use customer data to train the large language models, and provides instructive guidance and prompts to help users responsibly use suggested content and actions. 

Is Microsoft 365 Copilot Free?

If you’re an individual user, then it’s possible to use Copilot for Windows (previously known as Bing Chat). However, in order to own 365 Copilot, it comes in at $30 per user for a month’s subscription for Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard, and Business Premium enterprise customers only. 

In addition, there are also advanced Microsoft Copilot solutions available that come with an even higher pricing structure, and require an additional $30 per month on top of the existing Microsoft 365 subscription.

There are also plug-ins available for 365 Copilot that allow you to gain access to third-party apps, such as Dynamics 365, or even Bing’s Web Search. You’ll be able to manage any 365 Copilot plug-ins just as you would with other integrated apps in your Microsoft 365 admin center.

Eventually, the AI assistant will become embedded into virtually every aspect of Microsoft’s technology suite, and so will be added into Microsoft’s Viva, Loop, SharePoint and Power platforms.

Final Thoughts

Microsoft 365 Copilot has been making waves in the Microsoft Office Suite ecosystem, because of its ability to seamlessly integrate the powers of generative AI into daily workflows across apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams.

Adopting 365 Copilot for your business does have some considerations, but now that you know what is Microsoft 365 Copilot and what it can do, despite any possible technical hiccups, the AI assistant promises to revolutionize productivity for your organization like never before.

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