Mar 16, 2023 - Technology

Microsoft details how AI will change its Office apps

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Illustration of the Microsoft logo with binoculars viewing the OpenAI logo

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Microsoft on Thursday unveiled its effort to build generative AI into Office tools, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams, as well a new Business Chat app that works across corporate data.

Why it matters: Companies are racing to add the latest generative AI technologies into their products.

Details: Dubbed Microsoft 365 Copilot for Work, the software will be able to help with a range of tasks, from drafting e-mails to crafting budgets to summarizing a meeting if participants arrive late.

  • Microsoft also demoed how AI can easily turn a Word document into an animated PowerPoint presentation, complete with speaker notes.
  • The company said these new features are now being tested with 20 customers (including 8 that are in the Fortune 500) in order to find and fix problems that might arise. It says it will expand access in the coming months and share details on pricing soon.

What they're saying: Microsoft pitched the new technology as a way to remove the drudgery from work.

  • "We have become separated from the soul of our work,” said corporate VP Jared Spataro. "We don’t just need a better way of doing the same things. We need a whole new way of working."

Of note: Microsoft sees the new Copilot as not just a way for people to make better use of their data, but also to harness more of the capabilities of Microsoft's software.

  • Most people, for example, only use about 10% of PowerPoint's capabilities; the company sees AI as an easier way to access the other 90%.

Between the lines: Microsoft has had a leg up thanks to its commercial relationship with OpenAI.

  • For example, GPT-4 was only announced this week, but Microsoft revealed that the new version is actually what has been powering its AI-enhanced Bing search engine.
  • Of course, the company has poured billions of dollars into OpenAI in exchange for that early access.

The big picture: Others, including Google, are developing and deploying their own generative AI systems.

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