There’s a new AI assistant on the market and if you’re still trying to keep up with everything that’s been going on with tech, you might be just a little frustrated wondering “What is Microsoft Copilot?” Simply put, Copilot is the Microsoft contribution to the artificial intelligence industry and it is designed to combine the functionalities of a chatbot like Grok and ChatGPT, with an assistant like Alexa or Siri. The Microsoft Copilot release date began with a gradual rollout of the chatbot in September, with the rest officially released on 1 November 2023. Since then, Microsoft has been rolling out features steadily, pacing it out for Microsoft 365 users. Let’s try to break down what Microsoft Copilot does and how to use Microsoft Copilot to organize and work with greater ease.

Breaking it Down—What is Microsoft Copilot and What Does It Do?

(Image Credit – Microsoft)

What is Microsoft Copilot?

Aimed at productivity and cross-platform functionality, the Microsoft 365 Copilot tool is designed to simplify how you work. Marketed as “your copilot for work,” Copilot has a few different aspects that define what it is. In the most basic sense, Microsoft Copilot is a chatbot that answers your questions by scanning and summarizing real-time data from the internet. The chatbot was originally released as Bing Chat earlier this year but was later rebranded under the Copilot umbrella of services. Microsoft Copilot for Windows can generate text and content according to the prompts provided, and users can make use of images and voice chat instead of having to type it out as well. This copilot tool is freely available for Windows users.

Another way to answer “What is Microsoft Copilot?” is to summarize its other capabilities that are available to Microsoft Enterprise users and those who subscribe to the additional Microsoft 365 services. Users can scan and summarize documents, reply to emails, create code, boost cyber security, etc. The more sophisticated Microsoft Copilot components are designed to be integrated into every aspect of your work with your desktop. 

What Does Microsoft Copilot Do?

It is easier to understand what Copilot is when you’re able to understand what Microsoft Copilot does. Many components of Microsoft Copilot are currently available and others are to be released early in 2024. If you’re wondering how Microsoft Copilot works, the basic AI chat features are similar to what we’ve been familiar with, from search engines to chatbots that respond to our queries and provide consolidated search results and inputs. The more complex Copilot tools are capable of much more. It uses generative artificial intelligence and large language models to help users assess, assimilate, and respond to data.

Copilot for GitHub—The Copilot Origin Story

The earliest iterations of Microsoft’s Copilot initiative had arrived way back in October 2021. Since the initial launch of GitHub Copilot, the development of code has become a much more straightforward process. The service assisted with the writing and autocompletion of code and with the latest developments in March, GitHub Copilot X has taken the AI incorporation within the coding process even further. 

If you’re wondering what Copilot does here, it provides a chat window for users to discuss their code, providing in-depth analysis of code they have written already as well as the errors that have been generated. Powered by OpenAI’s new GPT-4 model, the GitHub Copilot is set to assist with submitting pull requests, supporting voice-to-code AI technology extensions, and suggesting tests that can improve the work done with the code. 

Microsoft 365—What Is Microsoft Copilot Going to Change?

Integrated into Microsoft services like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, Copilot is set to simplify the data that is being added and generated, with responses tailored to your role and preferences. AI-generated visuals in PowerPoint will ensure your presentations are best customized for you and your audience. From creating customized presentation templates to generating a first draft of a write-up, M356 Copilot is supposed to help break down tasks and generate data to save you from investing time and energy in doing the same. Integrated into Excel, it should assist with conducting complex mathematical data analysis that can help with data analysis and visualization.

Integrated into Microsoft Teams, there are various assistant duties that Microsoft Copilot does there as well. The features are unreleased, but the tool should be able to transcribe meetings and generate summaries for the session, quoting teammates when prompted to record specific minutes of the meeting. Its use with the Whiteboard will help users create data visualizations during meetings very easily. If the meeting details do not need to be recorded, Microsoft Copilot can be kept on standby as a chatbot for any queries. Outside of the meetings, the AI assistant can help generate responses and adjust messages to suit the tone required for any communication through the chat.

Microsoft has also announced Microsoft Mesh, a new form of 3D immersive technology that will allow businesses to create three-dimensional spaces that will transform how meetings are conducted. Users can generate avatars, select 3D environments, assign seats, have simultaneous conversations, experience interactive activities, and provide live reactions as meetings are conducted. With growing talks of metaverses and immersive technology, this could represent the future of online meetings and interactions.

Microsoft Outlook—What Does Microsoft Copilot Do to Simplify Emails?

In 2024, users will be able to use Microsoft 365 to take a look at email thread summaries, whether to avoid the effort of scanning through each email or for a recap before they generate a response. Copilot is designed to summarize the data and suggest responses and action points that you can take next. Scheduling and preparing for meetings will also be simplified—you can review invitation details, scan through relevant documents, draft agendas, and get the relevant participants involved in the process as well.

Microsoft Copilot Studio—The Real Gamechanger

Microsoft Copilot Studio—The Real Gamechanger

From the Microsoft Copilot Studio presentation at Microsoft Ignite 2023 “Transform copilot development with Microsoft Copilot Studio”

Copilot is designed to support you in multiple ways but the Copilot Studio is meant to take the customization even further and build your own copilots. The low-code tool combines generative AI and large language models in combination with various plugins to create a customized copilot that suits your own business or builds on data regarding your own company business for your employees. Microsoft Copilot Studio will access the various data sources you share it with, from websites to stored files, and then generate responses specifically. 

“Makers can import or create new plugins from existing platform components including data sources, connectors, flows, AI prompts, and custom topics. With more than 1,100 pre-built connectors, like SAP, Workday, and ServiceNow, organizations can easily connect to all their business data. And when you need to connect a data source that doesn’t have a prebuilt connector, no problem—it’s easy to build your own.”

Standalone copilots that are designed in the studio can be used for internal business operations but they can also be presented for public use to assist customers with answering questions and navigating towards the resources they are looking for. The centralized dashboard allows administrators and developers to control various features of the generated copilot and view necessary analytics to restructure their data and services.

How to Use Microsoft Copilot?

How to Use Microsoft Copilot?

Image credit – Microsoft “Introducing Microsoft Copilot Studio and new features in Copilot for Microsoft 365”

To access the Microsoft Copilot chatbot, users can go to the Microsoft Copilot web link on Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. You will then be instructed to log in with a Microsoft or Entra ID. After agreeing with the terms and conditions, you should have the Copilot chatbot open and ready for use. Users can choose between a creative, precise, or balanced response style and generate up to 30 responses for each chat that they open up with Microsoft Copilot. 

Users with Windows 11 should receive a system update that brings the chatbot to their desktop tasks bars. Those with Microsoft 356 can additionally access the Copilot AI on Word and other Microsoft services. Copilot for Microsoft 365 comes at an additional cost of $30 per user per month. If you want to learn how to use Microsoft Copilot for specific services, you can look into specific integration as well. For instance, you can purchase a standalone Microsoft Copilot Studio subscription if the service that you are primarily interested in. Businesses can purchase the license from the Microsoft 365 admin center and then identify and assign the Studio access to select employees. 

The GitHub Copilot subscription is available for $10 per calendar month however “GitHub Copilot is free to use for verified students, teachers, and maintainers of popular open source projects” so there are ways for certain groups to get access for free. 

Microsoft Copilot—The Future of Work

The Microsoft Copilot ecosystem is just getting started with its expansions and the range of services, if not available already, is predicted to grow vastly in 2024. Microsoft Security Copilot is designed to break down security operations tasks and provide greater control over the cybersecurity of an organization. Microsoft Sales Copilot is a tool that works to “automatically capture, access, and register data into any customer relationship management (CRM) system. It eliminates manual data entry and gives sellers more time to focus on selling.” All of Microsoft Copilot’s offerings appear designed for data analysis and optimization, regardless of the industry it is used in.

Understanding what Microsoft Copilot is and getting familiar with its various features will take some time as the variety of services can feel overwhelming at first. Start with the tools necessary for your work and get creative with your prompts and questions to explore the full extent of what the AI can do for you.