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Microsoft has been an early leader in generative AI thanks to its investment in — and integrations with — OpenAI and the latter’s hit conversational large language model (LLM) app ChatGPT.
But now, Redmond is going even further: today at an event in New York City, Microsoft speakers announced that a new version of Windows 11 will be shipping on September 26, 2023, and with it will be Microsoft’s AI companion Copilot baked right into the operating system (OS) itself.
“Because of the way it is built into Windows, Copilot has a view across all your applications,” said Carmen Zlateff, vice president of Windows, during the event. “What if Copilot could take copy and paste and make them even better — copy, paste and do?”
Among the new features the Copilot in Windows integration offers is “Sound Like Me,” the ability for the Copilot AI to scan and analyze your writing style and compose emails for you in Microsoft Outlook, the software giant’s popular email application for businesses and individual users.
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Other classic apps such as Microsoft Paint, Microsoft Photos, Word, and Excel have all been “reimagined” to work with Microsoft Copilot, taking the users instructions and making the apps themselves generate what the user requests.
Baked into the OS, but with the power to continue interactions across devices
Microsoft announced back in May that Copilot would be available through all Microsoft 365 applications, part of Microsoft’s longstanding software-as-a-subscription (SaaS) offering, but the new announcement appears to offer Copilot to those who just have Windows 11 installed locally, and to represent a deeper integration of the AI tool into the OS itself.
Today, Microsoft further announced Copilot would function as an app across devices, taking data and context from your phone, and allowing you to ask it to draft and send text messages containing that information.
Microsoft’s vision is that Copilot will be your personal assistant, retrieving helpful information such as your airplane ticketing details from your texts or emails and providing them to you instantly on your phone or computer through the Copilot mobile app or through Windows itself.
One example showed how a user could ask Copilot to draft a text to their husband about going to a play at a theater during a certain span of available dates, and Copilot would automatically pull up a list of performances occurring then, and provide links to buy tickets on a Windows desktop, continuing the interaction across devices.
Colette Stallbaumer, general manager of Microsoft 365, spoke at the event and said that a new Microsoft 365 Copilot will also be available to enterprise customers beginning on November 1st, 2023, and it would offer such features as analyzing work email to provide a summary of the most pressing tasks for an individual employee.
The new Microsoft 365 Copilot can also act as a kind of AI agent, performing its own market research across multiple web sources in realtime, giving employees accurate and up-to-the-minute information.
Microsoft also previewed a new Copilot Lab, which will enable 365 enterprise users the ability to learn prompt engineering.
Stallbraumer said 365 Copilot is currently being used in a preview version by a “select group of consumers and small business” customers.
“You soon won’t be able to imagine life without it,” Stallbaumer said.
Building off Bing
The company showed off demo screens of the new Copilot for Windows that resembled its current Open AI-powered Bing Chat application interface, with a right-side rail that allows the user to converse with Copilot and select different options including “more creative,” “more balanced,” or “more precise” responses, which essentially allows the user to turn up or down how imaginative (and hallucinatory) the AI model becomes — analogous to “temperature” settings.
In fact, Microsoft general manager of search and AI Divya Kumar spoke during the event as well, and revealed that Bing users had conducted over a billion chats since the service was offered earlier this year.
The company announced a new service, Microsoft Shopping, built into Bing that will now automatically seek to find the user the best promotional codes, coupons, deals, and cash-back opportunities for the products they were searching.
Users can now save a photo on Microsoft Shopping and use it as the inspiration for the kind of aesthetic they want in their desired product.
Bing has been further upgraded with more personalization features, including the ability to remember a user’s previous chats and draw upon them when responding to new queries.
“Here’s an example,” said one presenter. “I’m looking for something to do this weekend. And you can see that Bing remembered earlier conversations I had [with it] about sports and my golden retriever. It takes these earlier conversations into consideration to infer that I may want sports related or pet friendly activities. With just a single Bing, it brings me personalized results from across the web that match my interests.”
DALL-E 3 comes Bing Image Creator
Taking advantage of its close ties with OpenAI, Microsoft’s Bing Image Creator text-to-AI image generation web app will now be updated to DALL-E 3, the latest image generating AI model from OpenAI, announced just yesterday, which itself has been upgraded to include the ability to produce text baked into images and is much better at understanding a user’s natural language descriptions of the relationship between objects in the image — a woman to the right of a man, holding a sword, for example.
With the new Microsoft Copilot, OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 is powering other features as well, including an updated Microsoft Designer app.
Microsoft further showed off new Surface computing hardware at its event, but the star of the show was clearly the new AI Copilot, which Microsoft is putting in nearly every conceivable crack and crevasse of its signature OS, still the most popular desktop OS in the world.
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