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Microsoft's everyday AI companion Copilot is here to help – if you're willing to pay

Jan 16, 2024, 14:23 IST
Business Insider
Microsoft now offers a subscription for its AI companion, Copilot, for individual users.Microsoft
  • Microsoft is ready to make AI all about agents.
  • The tech giant just announced new subscriptions to its AI tool Copilot.

Microsoft is ready to offer you a personal AI buddy — if you're willing to pay.

The Redmond tech giant is rolling out its "everyday AI companion," called Copilot, to both individuals and small and medium-sized businesses through paid subscription services.

On one level, Copilot is a generative AI tool integrated into Microsoft's suite of apps: think Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams. Its goal is to act like a highly intelligent assistant to help users boost productivity when working with these apps.

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At another level, it's a huge bet by Microsoft on a future in which every person and organization has their own personal AI agent to handle life's tedium and more time-consuming tasks.

In a recent blog, Bill Gates went as far as describing AI agents as tools that are "not only going to change how everyone interacts with computers," but will bring about "the biggest revolution computing since we went from typing commands to tapping on icons."


Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates has high hopes for AI agents.Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

"You'll be able to have nuanced conversations with them. They will be much more personalized, and they won't be limited to relatively simple tasks like writing a letter," Gates wrote in November.

The concept of AI agents such as Copilot, which has gathered momentum since the launch of OpenAI's ChatGPT, aims to take the generative AI experience beyond mere interactions with a chatbot.

As Microsoft puts it, Copilot's advantage comes from its ability to provide "a single AI experience that runs across your devices, understands your context on the web, on your PC, across your apps."

The idea comes down to AI offering better support by having a much more detailed understanding of your personal goals, habits, and needs. Or, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella once said, it builds a "single unified experience centered around you."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Individuals will need to pay $20 a month for a Copilot Pro subscription. A $30 monthly subscription previously available to enterprises with more than 300 users is now open to smaller businesses.


Divya Kumar, Microsoft's search and AI marketing chief, told Business Insider there's a simple reason to pay: to get priority access to the best AI models. Right now, this would be GPT-4 turbo from Microsoft partner OpenAI.

This matters, Kumar said, to the likes of "creators and researchers and programmers," who want "faster performance," as well as "better design or integration capabilities" — whether for work or their own personal projects.

It's also a sign that the future of AI is diverging. AI that is — in theory anyway — more accurate, less prone to "hallucinations," and quicker to respond will increasingly cost money.

In a demo, Kumar used Outlook to show how Copilot could help save time on emails.

When asking the tool to write an invitation for a home-cooked meal on Outlook, she expected it to do the "heavy lifting" to create a template that could be adapted.


About 10 seconds later, it came up with a first draft — albeit with some rough spots. (The email read "hope you're enjoying summer" despite it being mid-January, highlighting how it remains subject to the hallucination problem that plagues AI bots.)

Other Copilot features include a "coach" function that checks for things like tone, sentiment, and clarity.

"I'm like 'oh great I can work with that,'" Kumar said. "I didn't have to sit and think about 'what am I going to type?'"

What you absolutely still have to do, however, is double-check any material generated by Copilot. AI remains imperfect, even if you're paying for it.

Microsoft will soon find out how many people really want to hand over their card details for the privilege.

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