Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program Now Available

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Microsoft announced today the launch of its Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program, which is an invitation-only paid preview of the ChatGPT-based AI features it announced for Microsoft 365 apps and services in March this year. The program will be available to 600 customers worldwide.

Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program expands on initial trial of AI technology

In a blog post, Microsoft said they have been testing Copilot with 20 enterprise customers, learning from their feedback, and are now ready to test the technology with a wider audience.

Guy Moore, Workforce Enablement Lead at Chevron, said:

“The potential of Microsoft 365 Copilot is undeniable, and it’s energizing to explore the possibilities as we couple the ingenuity of our people with the functionality of the tool. Early access has given us visibility into how it can further streamline processes, speed insights, spark ideas, enhance productivity and evolve the way we work. We’re proud to team with Microsoft as we continue to achieve new levels of innovation and advance the future of energy.”

Microsoft adds that feedback from the initial 20 customers shows that AI integration is a potential gamechanger for meetings and the way people create.

Semantic Index for Microsoft 365 Copilot

For Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 customers, there will be a new feature called the Semantic Index for Copilot. The index is a complex map of your tenant’s user and company data.

Semantic Index for Copilot in Teams will be for E3 and E5 customers and was announced alongside the Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program
Semantic Index for Copilot in Teams will be for E3 and E5 customers and was announced alongside the Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program (Image Credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft says that if you run a query for a particular piece of information, instead of just searching for the keyword in the filename and body of the document, it is able to search with more context, like understanding who creates that document in the organization and what application it is created with.

The idea here is to understand the search intent better so Copilot can return more relevant, actionable responses and prompts. The index is designed to improve search results in Microsoft 365 regardless of whether Copilot is used to perform a search.

New Microsoft 365 Copilot features announced

As part of today’s announcement about the Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program, new features are also being introduced to Copilot.

Copilot is coming to Whiteboard, which should make brainstorming and Teams meetings more creative. Just like other Copilot integrations with Microsoft 365 apps, you will be able to use natural language and have Copilot generate ideas, organize ideas into themes, and create designs that bring content to life. Additionally, you can use Copilot to summarize content in Whiteboard.

Copilot Whiteboard- Idea generation
Copilot Whiteboard- Idea generation (Image Credit: Microsoft)

DALL-E, the image generator from OpenAI, will be integrated into PowerPoint.

Copilot PowerPoint-DALL-E
Copilot PowerPoint-DALL-E (Image Credit: Microsoft)

Outlook will get Grammarly-style tips that help you refine clarity, sentiment, and tone in your email messages.

Outlook Copilot- Email Coaching
Outlook Copilot- Email Coaching (Image Credit: Microsoft)

OneNote gets similar features to Whiteboard, including the ability to prompt for draft plans, ideas, lists, and to organize information.

Loop isn’t left out. Copilot brings the ability to summarize content on a page.

Copilot Loop- Summarization
Copilot Loop- Summarization (Image Credit: Microsoft)

And Viva Learning gets a natural language chat interface to help create personalized learning journeys like upskilling paths, finding relevant resources, and scheduling time to complete training.

Microsoft notes that during the development of these features, it is guided by its own AI principles and Responsible AI Standard. We’re also reminded that the technology isn’t perfect. And to help users navigate its limitations, links to sources are provided and Microsoft prompts users to review, fact check, and adjust the results provided by Copilot as needed.

The race to integrate A.I. into productivity tools

Microsoft is clearly treading carefully with Copilot integration for its cloud productivity tools by making the Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program a limited and paid preview. Bing Chat has shown how it can improve on what is already provided by ChatGPT and what many see as an inferior effort so far from what we’ve seen of Google’s Bard technology.

While simple integration of Bing Chat-like features into Microsoft 365 would be useful at this stage, the real key to unlocking the potential of AI will be how well it can understand more deeply the context of organizational data and search intent. But it looks like Microsoft will be reserving the real power for customers who are paying more on E3 and E5 plans.

Nevertheless, for Copilot and other AI features to be really useful, there’s still a way to go. But it’s early days. And the recent preview of Microsoft Designer shows just how limited the technology is. Despite the likely disappointment that the Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program is limited access at this stage, nonetheless, it’s an exciting time to be in IT and I believe this is only the beginning of a profound transformation in the way we get things done.

Microsoft also released today the results of its Work Trend Index annual report if you are interested in finding out more about how AI stands to affect productivity.