Microsoft adds ChatGPT technology to office software

Microsoft announced Thursday its latest plans to put artificial intelligence in the hands of more users, responding to a series of revelations this week by rival Google with upgrades to its widely used desktop software.

The technology company showed off a new artificial intelligence “copilot” for Microsoft 365, its suite of products that includes Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and Outlook emails.

Opened for the first time to select business customers for testing, Microsoft said artificial intelligence will deliver draft in these applications, speeding up content creation and saving workers time.

The Redmond, Washington-based company, which has outperformed its peers with investments in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, also showed off a new “conversational business” experience that can pull data and perform tasks across apps based on a written command from the user.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
“We believe this next generation of AI will unlock a new wave of productivity growth,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.
AFP via Getty Images

“We believe this next generation of AI will unlock a new wave of productivity growth,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a live presentation.

The news drumbeat this week, including new funding for AI startup Adept, reflects how companies large and small are entering into fierce competition to deploy software that can reshape the way people work.

At the center is Microsoft and Google owner Alphabet, which on Tuesday touted AI features for Gmail and a “magic wand” for crafting prose in its word processor.

The capabilities offered by both Microsoft and Google are similar.

The frenzy to invest in and build new products began with last year’s launch of ChatGPT, a chatbot that showed the public the potential of so-called large language paradigms.

Such technology learns from past data how to recreate content, supporting Microsoft’s new co-pilot along with other business data and applications.

This kind of artificial intelligence is also developing rapidly. Just this week, OpenAI started releasing a more powerful version known as GPT-4, which is built into the chatbot in Microsoft’s updated Bing search engine.

Text from the ChatGPT page on the OpenAI website
The frenzy to invest in and build new products started with the launch of ChatGPT last year.

In one of the company’s biggest updates Thursday, Microsoft said artificial intelligence could open up the computational magic of its Excel spreadsheet program — long the domain of trained analysts — to anyone able to describe the computation they want in plain text.

Microsoft also said the AI ​​can summarize email threads and virtual meetings as they happen in its Teams collaboration software, similar to the live AI feedback Google showed to reporters this week.

Microsoft’s new business chat experience can also answer a question like, “Tell my team how we updated product strategy,” the company said, by taking cues from emails, meetings, and morning chat threads.

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