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Updated Mar 17, 2023, 12:47pm EDT
techNorth America

Microsoft brings AI chat to Word, Excel, and other Office products

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Ilustration/File Photo
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The News

Microsoft unveiled new artificial intelligence integrations to its line of Office 365 products Thursday that will make its customers’ data available by asking simple questions to a chat bot, instead of mouse clicks and typing.

Called “Office 365 Copilot,” the move is the latest big announcement for the company since it unveiled its Bing chat bot last month, which is integrated into its search engine.

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Know More

Now, by employing the technology, which was developed with ChatGPT creator OpenAI, Microsoft is weaving it into its core products. While Microsoft is not a big player in search — at least not now — it is far and away the leader in business software, including its Outlook email client, Microsoft Word, and Excel.

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The new integrations will “remove the drudgery from our daily tasks and jobs, freeing us to rediscover the joy of creation,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Thursday.

In a demonstration, Microsoft showed off the new capabilities that will allow customers to create PowerPoint presentations by typing a simple sentence, and create action automatic agendas based on what was discussed in a Microsoft Teams meeting.

The new integrations won’t be available right away. The company said it would be unveiling them in the coming months.

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Microsoft said that its Copilot software could unlock more advanced features in its business products that most of its customers currently are not aware of or don’t know how to use.

The company also announced a new product called “Business Chat,” a chat bot that will gather information from various sources, such as Word, Outlook, and Excel and answer questions like “What do I need to prepare for an upcoming meeting?”

Unlike the company’s Bing chat, which can field questions on anything available on the internet, Copilot is limited to information contained within customers’ Office 365 accounts.

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That narrow focus is an example of how the broad-based technology, called GPT or “generative pre-trained transformer,” can be used as a foundation to build technology for more specific uses.

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Step Back

Thursday’s presentation served as a kind of advertisement for companies that use Microsoft’s Azure cloud. Those companies use Microsoft’s underlying artificial intelligence models to create new products to serve their own customers.

Semafor reported last week, for instance, that General Motors is using Azure and Microsoft AI models to build a virtual assistant for its cars.

Microsoft’s was the third big AI announcement of the week to come out of the tech industry. On Monday, Google announced AI integrations into its own business products, known as Google Workplace.

And OpenAI announced GPT-4, a more advanced version of the model that powers ChatGPT. In its presentation, OpenAI showed off powerful new capabilities. Microsoft was already using GPT-4 in its Bing Chat, Semafor reported in February.

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