written by
Zack Calloway

Microsoft Copilot Is Here: What to Know

AI Machine Learning Productivity 3 min read
You’ve heard of Copilot… but what is it?

Microsoft Copilot is here now, and it’s worth checking out.

You might have heard of Microsoft Copilot by now, but we can't blame you if the details are a little fuzzy. New tech developments are coming fast and furious these days, and it's easy to miss some as they come along or to not see how a particular tool will impact your business.

So here’s what you need to know about Microsoft’s newest assistant — what it is, why it’s better than previous options, and the limitations you should know about before diving deep.

What Is Microsoft Copilot?

Microsoft Copilot is Microsoft’s latest AI-driven virtual assistant. It’s built into Microsoft Edge (the company’s newish web browser), and businesses with a Microsoft 365 subscription will eventually see it show up across Microsoft’s office suite — in Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams, and more.

Getting Déjà vu? Take a Closer Look

If you’re reading this and thinking “I’ve seen this movie before,” you’re right: Copilot isn’t Microsoft’s first foray into intelligent assistants.

But this one’s different, and that’s a good thing. Because previous attempts, well…how do we put this?

Some of you are old enough to remember Clippy, that overbearing and usually unhelpful animated paperclip that’s become its own meme. Microsoft eventually put Clippy out to pasture and replaced it with Cortana (named after the sentient AI from the Halo video games, yes, really). Cortana was…fine, but show of hands— did anyone actually use it?

Truth be told, Cortana could do some good things. But the use cases were limited, and it faced this weird dual problem where non-techies couldn’t figure out how to make it genuinely useful but techies already had other, nearly-as-efficient ways to do the things Cortana could do.

Copilot isn’t going to save the world — it’s still going to face that dual problem to a degree. But it is different, in a good way.

That’s because Copilot is built on a large language model (LLM) — the same kind of technology powering ChatGPT and Bard. It’s not just drawing from a pool of prewritten responses. Instead, it can process and understand what you ask it in human-like ways, and it can respond to you dynamically in human-like ways, too.

So What Can Copilot Do?

More than you might expect.

Because it’s integrated into numerous Microsoft products, Copilot can do way more than Cortana could, and it can do it with far more intelligence. For instance, you can ask Copilot (using just regular text, like you’d type over chat to a coworker) to change a setting on your computer. You know that setting is buried somewhere in the OS, but you’re struggling to find it (or you’d rather not take the time to look). Copilot, within certain parameters, can find it and even change the setting for you.

Copilot can also dynamically summarize text, giving you a quick rundown of a detailed Word document or a long web page. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. All the sorts of things you might have seen people asking ChatGPT or Bard or DALL-E to do, Copilot can do similarly. But Copilot does it with an understanding of your business and your teams.

A Word of LLM Warning

Microsoft Copilot is going to be a big deal for lots of workers and business leaders, but it does come with some warning labels.

First, make sure your team knows what an LLM is and isn’t doing. Copilot isn’t sentient, and it doesn’t understand truth from error in the same way we do. It’s essentially trying to create the answer it thinks you’re wanting or expecting, and that means sometimes it tells users stuff that just isn’t true. That’s usually humorous when you’re asking ChatGPT silly trivia questions, but when it’s your business data or a customer relationship? Mistakes can be a little bit more problematic.

Our take? Play around with Copilot. Get to know what it can do and how it might help your business. But make sure you know the basics of what’s going on behind the scenes and the resulting limitations.

Got questions on how Copilot could help your business, or what you need to watch out for? Give us a call — we’re happy to help!

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