Microsoft Copilot Commercially Released
Microsoft Copilot is now offered at the "general availability" commercial-release stage, per a Friday Microsoft announcement.
"Microsoft Copilot" is the product name that Microsoft uses for its former Bing Chat and Bing Chat Enterprise search and generative artificial intelligence products. There's also a separate Copilot for Microsoft 365 product, which reached general availability last month.
Microsoft Copilot, accessed through a browser, just has access to Web data. In contrast, Copilot for Microsoft 365 has access to Web data plus an organization's Microsoft 365 Graph data (company and user data). Copilot for Microsoft 365 also is distinguished by working with Microsoft 365 applications such as "Teams, Outlook, and Word," per Microsoft's FAQ document.
Commercial Data Protection
Microsoft Copilot's search capabilities enable users to get answers based on current data from the Web, in contrast to generative AI that's locked into closed large language models, which are more fixed in time. Microsoft Copilot is based on OpenAI's GPT-4 and DALL-E 3 large language models, but Microsoft doesn't share user prompt data with those models. Microsoft further promises that it doesn't see the data that organizations may use with Microsoft Copilot prompts.
Microsoft refers to these protections as providing "commercial data protection" for Microsoft Copilot users.
Here's how the announcement expressed that notion:
Copilot offers access to powerful AI models such as GPT-4 and up-to-date information with cited sources. When eligible users sign in with an eligible work or school account (Microsoft Entra ID), they receive commercial data protection at no additional cost, which means prompts and responses are not saved, Microsoft has no eyes on access, and data is not used to train the underlying large language model (LLM).
Microsoft also claims that organizations are protected against copyright infringements when using Microsoft Copilot.
Microsoft further explained that commercial data protection for Microsoft Copilot users currently isn't available for "government cloud customers or for student use," per this Dec. 1-dated "Manage Copilot" document. Commercial data protection is only in effect when users are signed in with "eligible work or school" Microsoft Entra ID accounts.
"Users signed in to Copilot with MSA [Microsoft account] accounts don't receive commercial data protection," the document added.
There's also no commercial data protection afforded when users access the Copilot portal (copilot.microsoft.com) via a browser other than Microsoft Edge. However, Edge users in enrolled organizations will see a green shield icon and the message, " Your personal and company data are protected in this chat."
Microsoft steers organizations toward commercial data protection by enabling its Copilot service plan "by default" for eligible organizations, per the FAQ.
Microsoft Copilot is included at no extra cost in the following Microsoft 365 subscription plans, per the announcement: "Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Microsoft 365 A3, A5 (faculty only), Microsoft 365 F3, Business Standard, and Business Premium."
Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 licensees under an Enterprise Agreement have access to Microsoft Copilot with commercial data protection via "Microsoft 365 E3 Extra Features," per the FAQ.
In the future Microsoft is planning to make Microsoft Copilot with commercial data protection available "to all Entra ID users (excluding sovereign government cloud and student users)," although the timing wasn't announced.
The prospect of Microsoft issuing a "standalone" Copilot product with commercial data protection, to be priced a $5 per user per month, got dropped, per the FAQ:
We recently announced our plan to expand the availability of commercial data protection for Copilot to even more Entra ID users over time at no additional cost. Because of this planned expansion, the standalone offering is no longer available.
Microsoft is pointing organizations wanting to educate users about Microsoft Copilot to its "adoption kit," which is available at aka.ms/Copilot/StarterKit.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.