Microsoft Goes Big with Multiple Copilots at Ignite Event
Microsoft's Ignite event happening this week elicited the declaration that "Microsoft is the Copilot company" now, and there were lots of product announcements attesting to it.
Microsoft's generative artificial intelligence-based Copilot assistants are integrated across Microsoft 365 apps, Azure services, and developer and administrative tools. New Copilots pop up frequently, and Microsoft sometimes changes the names of the ones that had been introduced earlier in the year.
A few Copilots have already reached the "general availability" (GA) commercial-release stage, such as Microsoft 365 Copilot, released earlier this month, which Microsoft has now renamed as "Copilot for Microsoft 365." The ability to use plugins and Microsoft Graph connectors with Copilot for Microsoft 365 is currently at the preview stage. IT pros can find and set policies for these plugins via the Microsoft 365 Admin Center, a capability that's at GA stage.
Microsoft also commercially released Copilot in Power Apps last month. In July, Microsoft Sales Copilot in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales, now called "Copilot for Sales" (renamed from "Viva Sales"), reached the GA stage.
The following Copilot updates mostly derive from this announcement by Colette Stallbaumer, general manager of Microsoft 365 and future of work, and this announcement by Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of modern work and business applications, plus Microsoft's Book of News, section 5.
Copilots Minus the Bing
Microsoft is removing the "Bing" branding from some its search AI assistants and giving them the "Copilot" brand instead. Update 11/15: A Microsoft spokesperson explained that these search AI assistants are just getting called "Copilot," adding that "Copilot is available in various experiences and, when relevant, you may see references to Copilot in Bing, Edge, or Windows." So, in a nutshell, here's the new naming convention, minus the Bing:
- "Copilot" is the new name for Bing Chat, which is accessible via a Web portal, Windows and Bing search itself.
- "Copilot" is the new name for Bing Chat Enterprise, which adds "commercial data protection" for organizations by not saving user chat data.
Copilot is expected to reach the GA release stage on Dec. 1. Details can be found in the Bing blog.
Microsoft had released Bing Chat Enterprise as a preview back in July as a free offering for Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard and Business Premium subscribers. It'll also be available maybe on the Dec. 1 GA date for Microsoft 365 F3 subscribers, which is a new product addition. In August, Microsoft announced a preview of Bing Chat Enterprise in the Windows Copilot preview, which will require having E3- or E5-type Microsoft 365 licensing to use it.
Microsoft also plans to release Copilot (formerly Bing Chat Enterprise) as a "standalone" product offering, priced at $5 per user per month.
As for Windows Copilot, it's at the preview stage, and is available with the Windows 11 version 23H2 operating system product that was released last month.
Microsoft also announced new Copilots this week, including Sales and Service implementations, a Copilot for Azure, plus many others.
Copilot for Azure, used for gaining insights into Azure workloads, is now at the preview stage. Copilot for Azure may depend on using Azure Arc, Microsoft's multicloud management solution, as Microsoft stated that "Copilot [for Azure] will leverage large language models (LLMs), the Azure control plane and insights about a user's Azure and Arc-enabled assets."
On the Dynamics 365 product side, new products include "Copilot for Service" and "Copilot for Sales" for use with customer relationship management solutions. Microsoft indicated that Copilot for Service will be integrated with "Salesforce, ServiceNow and Zendesk," and can be "extended to other systems with more than 1,000 pre-built and custom connectors." Copilot for Sales, on the other hand, actually reached the GA release stage in July, although it was called "Microsoft Sales Copilot in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales" back then.
Microsoft also has a separate Copilot in Dynamics 365 Sales product, which got a few updates this week. For more on the Dynamics 365 Copilots, please see this RCPmag.com article.
Copilot in Microsoft Fabric is now at the preview stage. It works with the Azure OpenAI service and can used to "create dataflows and data pipelines, generate code and entire functions, build machine learning models or visualize results" using natural language prompts.
Copilot in Microsoft Loop is at the preview stage, with a more general rollout expected "next year." Microsoft Loop, which lets people collaborate on Microsoft 365 app components, reached GA this week.
Copilot in Viva Insights was described as "our newest experience." It lets users query data harvested by the Viva Insights employee productivity and performance app. Copilot in Viva Insights "will be in private preview in January 2024."
Other Microsoft Viva apps getting Copilots include:
- Viva Goals: "preview in December 2023."
- Viva Insights: "preview early next year."
- Viva Learning: "private preview for joint Viva and SAP SuccessFactors customers by the end of 2023."
- Viva Engage: "preview in January 2024"
- Viva Glint: "private preview in January 2024."
Copilot in Microsoft Outlook, helping users with meeting preparation and scheduling, "will begin to roll out in early 2024."
Copilot for Microsoft 365 Developer Sandbox is at the private preview stage. It lets developers "build and test plugins and Graph connectors in a non-production tenant environment."
Microsoft Security Copilot in its "embedded experience" is currently at the private preview stage. It works with the Microsoft Intune Admin Center to provide guidance on endpoint policy creation and deployment. Security Copilot also is getting integrated with Microsoft Purview and Microsoft Entra, as well as Microsoft Defender XDR and Microsoft Sentinel.
Microsoft additionally mentioned that it has a "new Copilot profile" capability for Microsoft 365 users. Copilot profile lets Copilot for Microsoft 365 users gain "greater control over your Copilot interactions" by specifying their preferences. Copilot profile will be coming first to the Word and PowerPoint Microsoft 365 apps, but the timing was not indicated.
Copilot Studio is a new "low code" conversational AI product with an "integrated Admin Center" that was introduced this week. Microsoft described Copilot Studio as being "built on the foundations of Power Virtual Agents and the broader Microsoft conversational AI ecosystem."
Copilot Studio is used for connecting Copilot AI solutions to data sources. It has prebuilt plugins for that purpose, or custom plugins can be used. It also works with OpenAI's GPTs, or generative pre-trained transformers, used with large language models for generative AI. Its use with GPTs lets organizations "create a tailored version of ChatGPT that is more helpful for specific tasks," including the ability to customize Copilot for Microsoft 365.
Organizations can use Copilot Studio to connect Copilot for Microsoft 365 to other data sources besides the Microsoft Graph data that underlie Microsoft 365 services. Here's Microsoft's description to that end:
Until now, Copilot for Microsoft 365 has relied exclusively on your business data within the Microsoft Graph. But not all your data lives within the Graph, in Copilot’s reach. With Copilot Studio, you can give Copilot access to the trove of information that lies within your CRM, ERP, and other line of business systems.
Microsoft indicated that Copilot Studio works with "any system of record, from SAP, to Workday, to Service Now, to your own proprietary line of business solutions."
Copilot Studio users can also use it to access Azure AI Studio, which is designed for use by "professional developers with the ability to run Azure OpenAI on your data and leverage custom language models."
The ability to use Copilot Studio to customize Copilot for Microsoft 365 is at the public preview stage right now. The ability for organizations to create "a custom copilot" using Copilot Studio is at the GA stage.
The Microsoft 365 Admin Center now has a new "Copilot for Microsoft 365 Usage report," which is at the GA stage. Organizations can use this report to gauge their Copilot readiness.
Microsoft also promised that it is beefing up its Adoption Score tool to show generative AI-based "content summarization and creation" use across an organization. This information will be available under Adoption Score's "AI assistance category."
A new Microsoft Copilot Dashboard, "powered by Viva," is another tool for IT pros. The Microsoft Copilot Dashboard provides stats on Copilot use across apps and is currently at the public preview stage. Microsoft Copilot Dashboard will be "coming to the Viva Insights app in Teams and on the web in December 2023."
Microsoft also announced Copilot in Microsoft 365 Admin Center, which is used for managing Edge for Business, which is Microsoft's scheme for separating business Microsoft Edge browsing data from personal browsing data. Copilot in Microsoft 365 Admin Center is "currently available in private preview."
Microsoft also described a "Copilot for Microsoft 365 admin" offering, also in private preview, that's designed to help IT pros with Microsoft 365 tooling and configurations, plus Microsoft Edge and Windows Update management. It seems to be the same thing as described above.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.