Microsoft’s Copilot to Compete with Google in Business Software

    22 March 2023

    Microsoft announced its plan to add artificial intelligence (AI) into its line of office products including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook last week.

    The announcement came a day after Google released its own AI tools to be used with Gmail, Google Docs and other products to developers and selected businesses.

    Called "Copilot", Microsoft's AI tools will offer writing and input suggestions in these applications. Microsoft said it will speed up content creation and free up workers' time. Copilot will be available for testing by around 20 companies.

    This May 6, 2021 photo shows a sign for Microsoft offices in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
    This May 6, 2021 photo shows a sign for Microsoft offices in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

    While Alphabet-owned Google is making progress in AI, Microsoft's early investments in OpenAI have set it apart from its competitors.

    OpenAI is the creator of ChatGPT which learns from past information to quickly produce human-like writings. Just last week, OpenAI started to release a more powerful version known as GPT-4. The new version, along with the older GPT-3.5, are part of Copilot features, Microsoft said.

    Rishi Jaluria is a researcher with the Canadian company RBC. He said the new capabilities, offered through Microsoft's cloud service, are set to increase its business and growth. Jaluria predicts Copilot will "drive more usage of Microsoft Office and increase the separation versus competitors".

    Taking notes for you

    One of the big updates was in the electronic document, or spreadsheet, program Excel. Microsoft said anyone can describe a calculation they would like in plain text and its AI program would create a spreadsheet. The task often requires the knowledge of trained analysts.

    Jon Friedman, a Microsoft vice president, spoke with Reuters. He said Microsoft's new "business chat" experience is the biggest development last week. He said it can handle tasks across several business programs.

    For example, a user can ask, "Tell my team how we updated the product strategy," and the AI will use information from a morning's worth of emails, meetings, and chat records.

    Making the technology as good as possible and ensuring that its answers are factual are key concerns for Microsoft. Friedman said that is why Copilot is being tested with just some customers before a wider release.

    An "amazing thing about large language models is they're very confident, and they get things wrong," Friedman said.

    Friedman said the long-term plan for Microsoft is to develop a more personalized AI experience.

    "We often make people adapt to the machines and systems we have built," Friedman said. "This is a thing that will start to adapt to you."

    I'm Gregory Stachel.

    Jeffrey Dastin reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    artificial intelligence – n. the development of computer systems that have the ability to perform work that normally requires human intelligence

    versus prep. used to indicate two different things or choices that are being compared or considered

    task n. a piece of work that has been given to someone

    chat n. a talk held over the Internet by people using a chat room

    strategy n. a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time

    adapt – v. to change (something) so that it functions better or is better suited for a purpose