The AI-powered Microsoft 365 Copilot could allow you to skip or even double-book meetings without missing out on what was discussed, “hopscotch” through priority email, and more.
Microsoft 365 Copilot, announced in March, unfortunately remains in preview. Microsoft is confident enough of what it can do, though, that it said today that it’s charging 600 worldwide customers to try it out as part of a Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Pass.
In March, corporate vice president Jared Spataro said that Copilot would come to basically all Microsoft 365 apps: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Teams and more. The company released a number of video demonstrations of how Microsoft 365 Copilot will work in its various apps. Two, though, stand out: AI-powered email prioritization in Outlook, and an AI assistant in Teams that can sit in on meeting you can’t attend and keep you up to date on what happened.
How Copilot for Microsoft Teams helps you skip meetings
Being in two virtual places at once sounds impossible, but that’s exactly what Microsoft is proposing. Instead of trying to bounce between two meetings at once, Copilot for Microsoft Teams will allow you to “follow” a meeting. “Following” a meeting allows Copilot to attend in your place. After the meeting is over, Teams will present a transcript, summary, notes, and more.
That’s pretty nice, but AI takes it to another level. Because Copilot was there, you can ask it questions about what actually happened, and, more importantly, why it happened. Copilot even cites the transcript so you can be sure it’s not “hallucinating” a false response. About the only thing it can’t do, for now, is input suggestions on your behalf.
How Copilot for Outlook can clean up your inbox
Naturally, Microsoft’s email efforts will focus on Outlook. Microsoft offers a number of ways to clean up your Outlook inbox, but prioritizing email is often determined by the sender (with that red exclamation mark) or by Outlook deciding to weed out spam. Now AI will step in. In the video below, look how Outlook will now just jump in and allow you to bounce around your inbox, quickly triaging your email without rearranging it.
Microsoft’s writing tools like Editor have provided feedback on your writing for some time, suggesting inclusive language and improved grammar. Now, though, they can criticize your tone and provide suggestions.
In Outlook Mobile, you’ll be able to use AI to draft a quick reply, and the Copilot AI will pull up relevant documents, too.
How Copilot for Word will work
Educators may have some real concerns about using AI in the classroom via ChatGPT. This won’t alleviate their concerns.
Copilot for Word allows you to pull in sources (in this demonstration, just documents, but presumably websites as well) and Word will synthesize their contents in the context and style that you want. What Word also does is use AI to apply formatting, so that you’ll be able to make it match up with previous documents, too.
AI tends to create copy that sounds somewhat robotic and formal. Whether that’s an advantage or not in business (or in a research paper) is anyone’s guess. Still, the ability to quickly integrate various sources into a cohesive document could be a powerful tool. (Note that Microsoft uses the term “draft” here, implying that human input will continue to be needed.
How Copilot for PowerPoint will work
You have to admit that Microsoft’s pitch video for Copilot for PowerPoint offers a compelling scenario: take a Word document, convert it to a PowerPoint document, and then go back at the click of a button. Using AI to add or integrate a slide sounds just as useful.
It’s hard to know whether an audience actually values your slides, or just you. If it’s the latter, then a quick, AI-designed pitch deck to provide a visual aid might be something you can do in the moments before your meeting.
How Copilot for Excel will work
In recent years, Microsoft has tried to make Microsoft Excel synonymous with “business intelligence,” pulling in data from a variety of sources and adding its own insights. Microsoft’s Copilot for Excel doesn’t appear to be as transformative as some of the other apps (and who knows how it will apply to the Excel World Cup, for that matter.)
Still, being able to ask Copilot for a summary of what occurred in a given quarter, and what could occur, could be extremely valuable.
We still don’t know whether Copilot will simply be a component of Microsoft 365, or whether Microsoft will tack on a premium tier with AI as a value-added feature. If it does, at least we’ll be able to know exactly what Microsoft plans to charge for.
Microsoft is adding Copilot for Microsoft Viva and OneNote, too. Copilot for OneNote feels very similar to Copilot for Word, pulling in documents colleagues have authored and integrating them into a broader document.
Under the hood, Microsoft said it will provide a new “semantic index” for customers. This semantic index is essentially an AI-powered search codex. Instead of looking for documents on a company’s South American sales, for example, the semantic index will already have digested these, so that it can return more sophisticated responses immediately.
Microsoft also believes that workers will demand these AI capabilities. The company released a Work Trends index that showed that while 49 percent of people say they’re worried AI will replace their jobs, 70 percent would delegate as much work as possible to AI to lessen their workloads. About 75 percent of the 30,000 people the poll polled said they would use AI for administrative tasks, and 79 percent they would use it for analytical work, too.