In its relentless pursuit of advancing generative AI, Microsoft remains at the forefront of innovation. Since the incorporation of ChatGPT into its Bing search engine earlier this year, the tech giant has consistently unveiled groundbreaking developments in the realm of generative AI. July marked another milestone in this endeavor.
One of the most eagerly awaited announcements was the pricing for Copilot, Microsoft’s AI-powered assistant. Revealed during the annual Inspire event, Copilot was introduced in March 2023 as an AI companion designed to streamline tasks and content creation across various Microsoft applications. This includes tasks such as automating PowerPoint Presentations and note-taking during Microsoft Teams meetings. Microsoft has now disclosed that Copilot will be available to customers using Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard, and Business Premium plans at an affordable rate of $30 per user per month. Although the availability to the general public is yet to be confirmed, the current limited rollout has reached around 600 enterprise customers globally, with expectations of substantial expansion in the coming quarter.
Aside from Copilot, Microsoft also unveiled two other key additions to its generative AI portfolio. The first is the enterprise-focused version of Bing Chat, aptly named Bing Chat Enterprise. This variation empowers users to harness generative AI for work-related tasks, such as crafting sales pitches, comparing marketing strategies, and generating SWOT analyses for specific projects. The tool sources data from the web, providing users with transparent citations for all information received. Microsoft ensures the security of user and business data, promising “no eyes-on access,” and clarifies that business data will not be utilized for training LLM models. Bing Chat Enterprise is currently available for preview and free for customers with Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard, and Business Premium plans, while standalone offerings are expected in the future at a rate of $5 per user per month.
Additionally, Microsoft introduced Visual Search via Bing Chat, which allows users to search for information using images instead of text, similar to Google Image Search. Although already accessible in desktop and mobile versions, Microsoft aims to include Visual Search in Bing Chat Enterprise in the near future.
Another exciting development comes in the form of Sales Copilot, a sales-specific variation of Copilot tailored to the needs of sales teams. Sales Copilot facilitates seamless integration between users’ CRM, Microsoft 365, and Teams applications. It equips sales teams with skills such as composing emails based on Dynamics 365 Sales data, automatically summarizing customer interactions from Teams, Outlook, and Dynamics, and providing real-time tips during Teams meetings. While Sales Copilot is a Microsoft offering, it can be integrated into other CRMs like Salesforce, albeit with additional licensing costs. This focus on data curation and content generation aims to enhance productivity and add tangible value for end-users.
Microsoft’s Generative AI: A Strategic Focus on the Horizon
Microsoft’s recently released Q4 earnings report demonstrated the positive impact of generative AI on the company’s performance. Despite a slight YoY decline in Azure revenue, generative AI contributed to a 26% growth rate, while the productivity and business process segment witnessed a notable 10% increase, resulting in an overall revenue rise of 8%. CFO Amy Hood expressed confidence in the company’s AI investment, expecting significant returns in the latter part of the fiscal year that began on July 1. Microsoft’s strategic approach to commercializing its OpenAI partnership, with a transparent view of AI’s influence on business performance, has resonated well with investors.
Foreseeing a Future of Increasing Competition
As Microsoft continues to integrate generative AI capabilities across its suite of applications, competition in the market is expected to intensify. Industry giants such as Google, Amazon, Salesforce, SAP, Adobe, and Oracle are likely to respond with their own innovations. This may lead to the formation of new partnerships and alliances among Big Tech companies in pursuit of the ultimate generative AI solution. Google’s Duet AI, a counterpart to Copilot, has yet to gain significant traction, while Salesforce recently launched its own generative AI service, Sales GPT, at a monthly cost of $50, prompting curiosity about its potential competition with Microsoft’s Sales Copilot. In this rapidly evolving landscape, a heterogeneous environment may emerge, where various generative AI tools from multiple vendors coexist, providing developers and users with a diverse array of options.
Overcoming Challenges and Embracing the Cloud
Microsoft’s early market positioning and diverse generative AI products, combined with its OpenAI partnership, have granted the company a competitive advantage. However, driving users to embrace the cloud to leverage the full potential of Copilot remains a primary challenge. In response to this, Microsoft has introduced its AIM (accelerate, innovate, move) program to facilitate businesses in transitioning to the cloud. While most companies have already adopted some level of cloud functionality, Microsoft’s proactive approach addresses potential barriers to broader cloud adoption and ensures users can fully benefit from Copilot’s capabilities. As Microsoft continues to shape the future of generative AI, its strategic vision and commitment to transparency position it as a key player in this transformative domain.