Microsoft will integrate comprehensive artificial intelligence functions into its main office programs. This was announced by CEO Satya Nadella on Thursday in Redmond. With “Microsoft 365 Copilot”, users of Office programs could benefit from the new AI functions that have been causing a stir in the IT world for months.

Office building blocks receiving a “Copilot” extension include Word for word processing, Outlook for email and calendaring, Powerpoint for presentations, and Teams for chats.

“Today marks the next big step in the evolution of how we interact with computers,” Nadella said. The CEO put the announcement in line with the legendary presentation of the graphical user interface by computer scientist Doug Engelbart (1963) and the premiere of the first iPhone (2007).

Status updates using personal information

“This will fundamentally change the way we work and unleash a new wave of productivity growth,” he said. With the new “Copilot for work”, Microsoft gives people more freedom of action and makes technology more accessible via the most universal interface – natural language.

Nadella presented a new type of business chat together with Microsoft manager Jared Spataro. This not only works with the data of a public AI language model, but also accesses personal data such as calendar entries, e-mails, chats and other documents of the users. “You can use it to do things you’ve never been able to do before,” Spataro promised. You can give the program verbal instructions, such as: “Tell my team how we updated the product strategy.” The software would then create a corresponding status update based on meetings, emails and chats.

In Outlook, users can then ask questions like this: “Create a summary of the alpha project emails that I missed during my vacation in the last 10 days and list any questions my team leader asked.” In Excel, even complicated data evaluations can be triggered in natural language without having to enter the syntax of the formulas in the spreadsheet.

supremacy in office software

With the broad-based AI offensive, Microsoft is attacking Google’s previously untouched leading position in the areas of Internet search and online advertising. The integration of the text robot ChatGPT in Bing and the Microsoft Edge browser plays a key role here. With “Microsoft 365 Copilot”, the world’s largest software group also wants to secure and further expand its supremacy in the field of office software.

The integration of the AI ​​functions into its office software should be of even greater importance than the AI ​​initiative at Bing. With the search engine Bing, the group only has a low single-digit market share, while Microsoft dominates the Office market by a large margin.

The technology used by Microsoft is primarily based on the GPT-4 language model, which was only presented to a broader public on Wednesday by the start-up OpenAI. Microsoft is closely associated with the small company from San Francisco and has invested around 13 billion dollars in OpenAI according to industry estimates.

The latest OpenAI language model GPT-4 is said to deliver better results than the previous variants and also understands visual content as input. Spataro emphasized that the “Microsoft Copilot” is more than OpenAI’s ChatGPT. It is a “sophisticated processing engine that works behind the scenes” to combine the power of public language models with the Microsoft 365 Apps and the data generated with them (“Microsoft Graph”).

AI also works in German

A Microsoft spokesman told the German Press Agency that “Microsoft 365 Copilot” and “Business Chat” can also be used without hesitation in the European Union because they meet the provisions of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The AI ​​solutions are also not tied to the use of the English language, but would also work well in German, for example. The update is currently being tested by 20 selected commercial customers. More are to be added in the coming months. The price model for the use of the AI ​​functions will be communicated in the foreseeable future.

On Tuesday, Google announced it would be rolling out a range of new generative AI capabilities across its various workspace apps, including Google Docs, GMail, Sheets and Slides. The functions include new ways to generate or summarize texts with AI and to collect ideas. Thanks to the AI, full emails can then be generated in GMail based on short bullet points.