Microsoft 365’s AI-powered Copilot is getting more features and paid access

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An illustration of Microsoft’s new Copilot feature for Microsoft 365
Image: _H0x0d_ (Twitter)

Microsoft is expanding preview access to its Microsoft 365 Copilot, a digital assistant based on OpenAI’s GPT-4 that brings AI-powered capabilities across Microsoft 365 apps and services. The tech giant has also announced a new indexing tool that lets Copilot more accurately report on internal company data, alongside some new Copilot features for apps like Microsoft Whiteboard, Outlook, and PowerPoint.

The company is launching the Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program — an invitation-only paid preview that will initially be rolled out to 600 global customers. Prior to this expansion, just 20 customers have been able to test the Microsoft 365 Copilot. Those new customers will be asked to pay an unspecified amount for the privilege, but Microsoft doesn’t say when the rollout will begin. We’ve emailed Microsoft for clarification and will update this story should we hear back.

A GIF displaying Microsoft’s 365 Copilot fetching information from a sales report.
Copilot’s new Semantic Index feature should help the chatbot locate and fetch the correct data requested by a user rather than spitting out every result based on a keyword search.Image: Microsoft

Microsoft is also introducing a range of new capabilities to the Microsoft 365 Copilot. A new Semantic Index feature is being rolled out for enterprise customers running the Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 suite that creates an intuitive map of both user and company data. Microsoft says that the Semantic Index “is critical to getting relevant, actionable responses to prompts in Microsoft 365 Copilot.” For example, Microsoft says that by asking Copilot about a “March sales report,” the tool will recognize that “sales reports are produced by Kelly on the finance team and created in Excel,” rather than simply looking for any documents containing those keywords.

Microsoft claims that this update will also enhance enterprise-based search results for E3 and E5 customers, even if they’re not using Copilot. Being able to draw upon internal company data could help more reliably streamline existing automation and workflows.

Copilot is also being added to Whiteboard, Microsoft 365’s collaborative digital canvas app for brainstorming. Users can summon Copilot to help generate ideas regarding specific topics and summarize Whiteboard content. Copilot can also use Microsoft Designer, the company’s new graphic design app, to bring those ideas to life by generating images based on the idea prompts created on Whiteboard.

A gif displaying Microsoft’s 365 Copilot suggesting ideas on Microsoft Whiteboard.
Copilot in Microsoft Whiteboard can generate suggestions based on text prompts and then build those directly into the app.Image: Microsoft

New capabilities are also being introduced to applications that already support the Microsoft 365 Copilot preview. For example, DALL-E, OpenAI’s text-to-image generator, is being added to Microsoft PowerPoint. Users will be able to ask Copilot to generate images based on text descriptions, which can then be included in presentations. Copilot in PowerPoint can also optimize text — such as turning bullet points into paragraphs (or vice versa) or changing the tone.

A gif displaying Microsoft’s 365 Copilot using PowerPoint’s new Dall-E integration to generate images for presentations.
Copilot can use DALL-E directly within PowerPoint to generate images for presentations using quick text descriptions.Image: Microsoft

Finally, Outlook is getting new Copilot coaching capabilities that offer writing guidance when drafting emails under tight deadlines or when dealing with sensitive subject matter. Copilot will advise users on how to effectively deliver information under these circumstances with appropriate clarity and tone. Microsoft has not mentioned when any of these new features will be available for paying preview customers.

A gif displaying Microsoft’s 365 Copilot in Outlook helping to guide the tone of sensitive emails.
In Outlook, Copilot can coach users on how to improve the tone of their emails to help communicate more effectively on sensitive topics.Image: Microsoft

There’s still no word on a public release (or even an open beta) for the Microsoft 365 Copilot. It’s likely we may see a few more of these preview updates expanding capabilities first, and it tracks that Microsoft would want to take its time before making it available for the wider public.

Pretty much every service utilizing large language models has been scrutinized for providing inaccurate information (known as hallucinations), including Microsoft’s own Bing chatbot. Microsoft has slapped a disclaimer on Copilot warning about inaccurate results for now, but organizations using generative AI technology currently run the risk of ingraining false or misleading information into their workflows or corporate communications.