This Week in IT: ‘Copilot for Microsoft 365’ Is Now Available for Everyone – But Is It Worth $30/User?

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This Week in IT, I dig deeper into Microsoft’s recent announcement that Copilot for Microsoft 365 is now available for small and medium sized businesses, I’ll look at how Copilot for Microsoft 365 differs from the free version of Copilot, and whether you should consider spending $30/user for the additional features Copilot for M365 brings to the table. Stay tuned to get my take and learn more about what Copilot could do for you and your organization….

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This Week in IT, I dig deeper into Microsoft’s recent announcement that Copilot for Microsoft 365 is now available for small and medium-sized businesses. I look at how Copilot for Microsoft 365 differs from the free version of Copilot, and whether you should consider spending an additional $30 per user for the additional features that Copilot for Microsoft 365 brings to the table. So stay tuned to get my take and learn more about what Copilot could do for you and your organization.

Welcome to This Week in IT, the show where I cover the most important news about Microsoft 365 Azure and Windows. But before we get started today, I’ve got a quick favour to ask you. About 80% of the people who watched our last video weren’t subscribed to the channel. As we go live today, we’re on about 2,990 subscribers, and I’d really love it if we could push that to about 3,020 this week. So if you’d like to see this weekly news update and my analysis, then please subscribe to the channel and don’t forget to hit the bell notification to make sure that you don’t miss out on the latest uploads. So if you remember back at Ignite last year, Microsoft launched Copilot for Microsoft 365.(…) Now this differs a little bit from Microsoft Copilot, which is the kind of free version of a chat GPT-like interface if you like, that Microsoft have been implementing in Bing since last January.(…) Now it was originally announced that Copilot for Microsoft 365 would only be available for larger enterprises.

You had to have a minimum of 300 seats to be able to use it. Now I always thought that, well, you know, probably within the next year or two, that will change and we’ll see Copilot available for all sizes of organizations. But there was some doubt put on that, you know, there wasn’t really a clear noise coming from Microsoft about whether this technology would ever be available for smaller organizations. And there were some questions about whether the data set that a smaller organization has would ever be large enough for the language model to really learn anything useful. So it was a bit of a surprise to me last week to hear Microsoft announcing already just a few months after the original launch of the product that Copilot for Microsoft 365 is now essentially available for all sizes of organization.

They’ve removed that 300 seat limit. And there are a couple of other things that go along with this announcement that you should be aware of. So there’s now a new product as well called Copilot Pro. And this is for individuals, it costs $20 a month. And it’s for people who are on things like the Microsoft Family or Personal plans. Also, you don’t need to be using Microsoft 365 now to get access to Copilot. You can also be on an E3 or an E5 Office 365 plan. And still get access to Copilot and the semantic index. In this video, I’m going to focus on Copilot for Microsoft 365. But I have to look a little bit at Copilot Pro before we move on to that just so you have an understanding of what it is and why it exists. So Copilot Pro is for Microsoft 365 personal and family subscription users. It’s going to cost $20 a month. And it brings all of these kind of generative AI features that are part of the bigger Copilot into all of the apps and services. Well, not all of them, but quite a lot of the apps and services that you would use as part of those plans. So Copilot Pro is integrated with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote on the PC. And it’s also coming soon to Mac OS and iPads.

Much like the free version of Microsoft Copilot, with this, you get the protection that Microsoft is offering. So for instance, the data that you put into it is never sent to Microsoft. They never see it. So they can’t use it to train their language models. And the information that you enter into Copilot Pro is never saved and never finds its way onto the public internet. With Copilot Pro, you also get access to the latest learning models. So right at the time of publishing this video, that means GPT-4 Turbo, and you get priority access to that. There’s also enhanced AI image creation with Microsoft Designer. And Microsoft is promising a tool called Copilot GPT Builder, which is coming soon. And they promise that you’ll be able to create your custom Copilot. It’s just using a few simple natural language prompts. You don’t need to be a programmer to create these things. And in my mind, the main benefit of Copilot Pro is the integration with Microsoft 365 apps and services. Of course, that’s something you don’t get if you pay for the chat GPT plus subscription monthly. But the big news here is Copilot for Microsoft 365 is now available for all business and Office 365 subscriptions.

Before there was a 300 minimum seat that you needed to meet before you could even get access to this, that has been completely taken away. And Office 365 subscribers can also get access to Copilot. Now, this differs from Copilot Pro and from the free Microsoft Copilot that everyone essentially can access, providing that you have some kind of Microsoft accounts. You get everything that’s included in Copilot Pro plus integration with Teams. Microsoft is also offering, of course, enterprise grade security. So that means all of this new stuff inherits your existing security, privacy, identity, and compliance policies that you already have set up. You also get Copilot Studio, which is a much more comprehensive tool than Microsoft is offering with the GPT builder. So why would you even consider something like Copilot for Microsoft 365? You’ve got all of these free tools like chat GPT plus, of course, you’ve got the free Microsoft Copilot that also provides a lot of these features. So what is the point of paying $30 per user a month? It’s a pretty steep ask.

So, I just want to go over my feelings and thoughts about what exactly you’re getting and why it might be worth paying. And I think we need to start with the integration story. Now that might seem, is it really worth paying $30 a month a user just to get this chat GPT style feature integrated into all of these applications? And the answer is maybe and probably. So with Copilot for M365,(…) this is integrated into things obviously like Word, Excel, PowerPoints, Teams. And I think that’s really important because if you’re having to use a separate application, then there’s always a possibility that you’re going to have to constantly context switch between one or the other. Of course, I understand that you can have all your windows arranged and potentially have whatever you want to use sitting beside Word.

But this integration into the application or surface itself does bring other advantages apart from just not having to context switch all of the time. Now, in my experience, using something like Windows Copilot or Microsoft Copilot, which is integrated into Edge, for instance, you can, of course, bring up Word in a browser window and Microsoft Copilot will kind of look, “Oh, well, he’s got something open in Word or a document open from Microsoft 365.” And most of the time, it successfully understands that and will kind of process the information if you ask it a question, for instance.(…) Now, the disadvantage of this kind of not proper integration here between these two products is there are a couple of points that I’d like to make. First of all is that you have to use the browser version of the application. So in order for Microsoft Copilot, the version that’s integrated into Edge, to see that document, it’s not going to see it in Word, for instance.(…) Now, going forward, Windows Copilot probably will be able to see what you have open in your applications and process that data regardless of which application you’re using. And that’s definitely going to be a focus for Windows 12 or whatever. The Hudson Valley version of Windows is going to be called when it’s released later this year.

But my main points here is that real integration, it just works more effectively. You’re more guaranteed to get the result that you want, and you don’t have all of that context switching which can potentially slow down productivity. So you need to evaluate is that integration really worth it for you. Now, because Copilot for Microsoft 365 is also learning directly on your organizational data, there are some things that it can do potentially above and beyond chat GPT or Microsoft Copilot can do. And I came back from holiday recently and I really thought, I wish I had the ability to use something like this to really go through a lot of the emails and communications that I had missed out on. So for instance, Copilot for M365 will be able to do things like summarizing long conversations, looking at transcripts and pulling out important information.

And of course, the same with email threads. Just surfacing important information, I was forwarded a long conversation and was asked to look at a particular piece of information from that thread. But of course, I have to go through that thread and actually find that information. And sometimes it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. And of course, AI could have helped me find that information really quickly. I think one of the most interesting things that Copilot for M365 is potentially going to offer is the ability to solve complex problems based on your organizational data, and to provide insights into that data, which a public service of course cannot do because it simply doesn’t have access to it. So what you have to remember is why you can copy and paste organizational data into a different service. There are all sorts of problems with that potentially in terms of securing it. So that’s another advantage. And you only get to copy and paste that little bit of information, whatever that system happens to be, it can’t see your entire organizational information. So that’s another big advantage that Copilot for M365 is going to probably have. And I’m not sure how effective and useful it is at the moment, but some of the demos that Microsoft showed about a year ago now were really impressive. I mean, some of the things that Copilot can potentially do with information in Excel.

So, I mean, I’m not an Excel whiz. And while I know the basics, if I really want to do some complex processing on the data, I would probably be scratching my head and wondering how to go about doing that. And this is something where Copilot could help. I could tell it, well, here’s the data, I can describe the structure to you a little bit. Here’s the problem that I’m trying to solve. Please provide me with the answer. And that’s kind of what Microsoft was demonstrating. Now, I’m a little bit apprehensive about whether that really works well in practice. And I guess we’re going to have to see as more of us get access to this technology during this year, but it is early days. But if Microsoft can really deliver on those kind of promises, then paying for Copilot for M365 could really be a massive productivity game changer.

Search. Search is one of the banes of my existence, to be honest. I’m trying to find things continuously. I know that I’ve seen it. It was, was it there? Was it here? And trying to surface the information that I need. Now, one of the advantages of having all of your data in Microsoft 365 is it can index it all. And the index that we have, it has its issues, it’s not perfect. But most of the time, it will probably help you to at least get a little bit closer to finding the data that it is that you’re looking for.(…) So what Microsoft is doing with all of this AI technology is adding a new feature called Semantic, the Semantic Index.(…) And essentially what this does is try to create associations with the data that it has access to in a more human-like way. So to explain that in a little bit more technical detail, basically it uses vectorized indices to enable a conceptual understanding, if you like, of your corporate data. So based on keywords, personalization, and social matching capabilities that are already built into M365. So vectors are stored in multi-dimensional spaces where semantically similar data points are clustered together, enabling Microsoft 365 to handle a broader range of queries and to give potentially much better results.

So as I said before, this is really more like how the human brain is able to create these associations between different pieces of data and how we might actually go looking for something if we wanted to find a particular answer. There’s also of course a customization piece here. I talked about Copilot Studio and Copilot for M365.(…) Really allows you a customization experience that you don’t get with the free version of Microsoft Copilot or even with Copilot Pro. So should you consider paying for Copilot for M365? Well, I’m excited about it and I think there are several points that you should really consider from a high level. And I think the first is the semantic index because search is really important. It’s one of the bigger benefits of Microsoft 365 as a whole, I think. I think this is a little bit underrated and if Microsoft can improve search with the semantic index, of course the proof is in the pudding, I think that is really going to help people with their everyday tasks. Solving complex problems using applications like Excel. So you won’t necessarily need to have advanced Excel skills to solve complex problems with your data. Surfacing insights into your corporate data that might not have been available or obvious before.

And that proper integration with most of the apps and services, I’m sure we’ll see that expanded as time goes on. Don’t underestimate how important that can be to productivity and really get in the result that you want from all of this artificial intelligence. My recommendation at this stage is if you have all or most of your data in Microsoft 365 is now because you can buy a license for Copilot for M365 on a per user basis is to decide who is most likely to benefit from Copilot at this stage and assign them a license and see how they get on with it. But I think it’s really important for whoever you assign a license to to understand what this is potentially capable of. This is not just simple generative AI that you might get in the free version of chat GPT for instance. It goes way beyond the capabilities of that. At least that’s what Microsoft is promising.

So, let me know what you think about Copilot for Microsoft 365. Is it something that you would consider for your organization or at least for some users despite the very high price tag or do you think that Microsoft needs to reduce it to make it more widely available to a broader range of companies? Let me know what you think in the comments below. I’d love to know. Before I go I’m going to leave you with a video on the screen that you might also find useful where I talk about the last update for Windows 11 potentially as we know it today and I also talk in that video about some of the AI features that are coming and being integrated into Hudson Valley which is the next version of Windows and is due to be released later this year. But that’s it from me today. Thank you for watching.