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Tech Matters: Microsoft Build 2023 — It’s all about AI

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 31, 2023

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Leslie Meredith

Microsoft held its annual conference for developers last week where artificial intelligence took center stage. Overall, Microsoft is aiming for an AI-infused workspace, everywhere and all of the time. With the integration of ChatGPT and its conversation-like interface, the transition to using enhanced Microsoft products should be fairly easy.

Keep in mind that Build is primarily an event for developers to show them new ways to build or integrate with Microsoft products. From a PC user standpoint, the announcements let us see what’s coming — and some features are already rolling out.

Let’s start with something you can use right now. Microsoft’s search engine Bing now incorporates ChatGPT 4 and vice versa, so you can use a chat interface in Bing that includes current internet results. The only other way to use ChatGPT 4 is to pay $20 per month for it through OpenAI. Previously, ChatGPT 4 was limited to accessing information on the web up to September 2021.

The Bing update has brought a once nearly forgotten search engine back into the spotlight, but whether or not that will help Microsoft gain market share from rival Google remains to be seen. With a stronghold on more than 90% of the U.S. market and the integration of its own AI chatbot Bard into search, it’s doubtful. However, Microsoft said Bing has grown to exceed 100 million daily active users, and daily installs of the Bing mobile app have increased fourfold since the integration of ChatGPT.

To use the new Bing, download it if you don’t already have it installed on your computer and make sure you are signed into your Microsoft account. Otherwise, your chat will be limited to just five queries. It is available only in Microsoft’s Edge browser.

A related announcement involves Bing plugins for third-party developers, two of which are already available: Wolfram Alpha for calculation-based queries and OpenTable for restaurant reservations. Coming soon are Instacart (grocery and other retail delivery), Kayak (travel), Klarna (payment installments), Redfin (real estate marketplace), Shopify (platform for online stores) and Zillow (similar to Redfin). By allowing third-party developers to build apps for Microsoft’s Bing and other AI experiences (more on that in a minute), it is expanding its search environment so that you remain there longer. In fact, Microsoft would love it if you never left!

The third announcement introduced Copilot, an AI-based assistant integrated into Microsoft 365 apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams and others. If the hype is to be believed, Copilot is your dream assistant — fully informed about everything that’s crossed your virtual desk, understands the market you work in, can compile data and analyze the results, make stunning PowerPoint presentations with just a few prompts and write emails that sound like you. In Teams, it can summarize key discussion points, including who said what and where people are aligned and where they disagree, suggest action items and automatically send emails to the right people to action those items after the meeting.

This is not yet available to the public despite what you might read online. To say that it’s “not yet available to all users” is a gross understatement. In fact, the product is being tested by 600 customers in major companies who were invited by Microsoft to participate in the early access program and are paying to do so. No release date has been set, and the company said in March that “the specifics on pricing and licensing will be shared soon.” Microsoft is being careful with this product because it relies on access to company data and therefore must be secured.

Business Chat, another new and yet-to-be-released product, works across the Microsoft 365 apps and an individual’s data, including Outlook calendar, contacts and emails, documents, and Teams chats and meetings. During Build, Microsoft said users will be able to give it natural language prompts like “Tell my team how we updated the product strategy,” and it will generate a status update based on the morning’s meetings, emails and chat threads.

In response to the popularity of hybrid working, Microsoft has developed Edge for Business, which is now in a preview stage. This version of its browser automatically separates work and personal browsing into dedicated browser windows, each with its own separate cache and storage location. For employees, this means personal data can be excluded from enterprise sync, giving them the privacy they want. Further, IT then has a more secure solution for its work-at-home employees.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


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