Microsoft, which is riding on the AI wave, is hosting its much-awaited Microsoft Build 2023 event in Seattle, US, today. A few weeks ago, the tech giant introduced copilot for the web along with the new AI-powered Bing search engine and Edge browser. And, this has catapulted the tech giant much ahead of its peers in the ongoing AI arms race.
Microsoft Build is essentially a conference for developers to get a glimpse of the new tools and techniques. This year’s edition is expected to witness developments and integrations related to artificial intelligence taking the centre stage.
At the event, the tech behemoth introduced an array of AI-backed features and enhancements to its line of products. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will deliver a keynote followed successive introductions to a slew of AI products from the company. Along with conversations on the astounding potential of AI, responsible use and deployment of AI technologies will also dominate the event.
Here is a look at all the key announcements at the Microsoft Build 2023:
Bing comes to ChatGPT, new plugins & more
In the last four months, Microsoft introduced an array of AI tools, and at the event the company asserted that it was witnessing remarkable progress in a short time. According to Microsoft, Bing users engaged with over half a billion chats, and created over 200 million images with Bing Image Creator and the daily downloads of the Bing Mobile app have increased eight times. With unmatched success, Microsoft said that it was taking the next leap in how users and developers can interact with search.
Microsoft has introduced three key updates for Bing – integration of Bing Search into ChatGPT, a common plugin platform with OpenAI and new plugin partners, and expanded integration of Bing Chat across Microsoft Copilots.
Bing will now be the default search experience for ChatGPT enabling the bot to offer timely and up-to-date answers from across the web. The company claims that now ChatGPT answers will be backed search and web data that will include citations. The new experience will be rolled out to ChatGPT Plus subscribers from today. It will be available to free users soon and they would simply be required to enable a plugin that brings Bing to ChatGPT.
With Bing, ChatGPT answers can be grounded search and web data and include citations. (Image: Microsoft)
Besides, Microsoft and OpenAI will be jointly committing to support and grow the AI plugin ecosystem embracing interoperability. Developers can now use one platform to build and submit plugins that work across both consumer and business platforms such as Bing, ChatGPT, Dynamics 365 Copilot, Windows Copilot, and Microsoft 365 Copilot. Bing will be adding support for plugins from Expedia, Instacart, Kayak, Klarna, Redfin, TripAdvisor, and Zillow. The addition of these plugins would mean that the chatbot will make relevant recommendations to the users.
The company also announced that Bing Chat will be integrated into Windows Copilot and Microsoft Edge. The integration will offer users highly personalised answers and relevant suggestions
AI-powered innovations on Microsoft Edge
At the Microsoft Build event, the company showcased the enhanced capabilities of its browser Edge. The company essentially raised the bar when it comes to the functionalities of a browser endowing it with features that can boost the productivity of professionals and organisations. Along with AI advancements, the Microsoft Edge browser comes with a new look and feel and a dedicated work experience. It is the first browser to integrate an AI-powered search with Bing built-in.
The company said that Microsoft Edge continues to be a copilot for the web and its vision is to empower organisations with enterprise-complaint AI. Microsoft said that the Microsoft 365 Copilot which is currently in private preview, will be natively integrated into Microsoft Edge. The copilot combines the power of large language models, Microsoft 365 apps, and users’ data in the Microsoft Graph. The company has also added plugins for the Microsoft 365 Copilot which can be enabled through Edge. Microsoft is adopting an open plugin standard introduced OpenAI for ChatGPT ensuring compatibility across ChatGPT and Microsoft Copilot’s tools.
An image showing Microsoft 365 Copilot answering a question about work updates. (Image: Microsoft)
Plugin support for Microsoft 365 Copilot
Microsoft is introducing plugin support in Microsoft 365 Copilot, allowing users to discover and enable new plugins easily. Developers can create experiences that enable users to interact with their apps using natural language to get answers and perform actions from connected services. Microsoft is adopting an open plugin standard introduced OpenAI for ChatGPT, ensuring compatibility across ChatGPT and Microsoft’s copilot offerings.
The plugins include ChatGPT and Bing plugins, Microsoft Teams message extensions, and Power Platform connectors. Microsoft Search will soon show relevant files and SharePoint sites in the browser’s address bar, and the Smart Find feature improves the Ctrl+F search experience. Text prediction is also being rolled out to enhance writing speed and accuracy. Besides, AI is also coming to exing workflows enabling users to find information in the most simple ways through Microsoft Search which will soon have contextually relevant files and SharePoint sites in the address bar. Besides the Ctrl + F for find will be improved with Smart Find.
Microsoft Edge For Business
The company has also introduced Microsoft Edge for Business which is a dedicated workspace with its own visual elements. The Edge for Business aims to offer enterprise controls, security, and productivity features for addressing challenges related to hybrid work. Interestingly, the browser separates work from personal browsing through dedicated windows as well as maintains privacy and security. IT professionals can configure controls and security settings for the Edge for Business to ensure data protection. It is in preview on managed devices for today.
AI and Windows 11
Panos Panay, Chief Product Officer at Microsoft, introduced a slew of new AI features for Windows 11. The new Windows Copilot seems to be a centralised AI Assant that will enable users to accomplish various tasks and collaborate across multiple applications.
The Windows Copilot sidebar will now stay consent across apps, programs, and windows and always be at the disposal of the user. With this, Microsoft aims to help users to take action, customise and seamlessly connect across their favourite applications.
With AI, functions such as copy/paste, Snipping Tool, and Snap Ass, personalisations become more accessible. Microsoft also announced a new Hybrid AI loop to support AI development across platforms and Azure to clients with new silicon support from AMD, Intel, Nvidia, and Qualcomm. Another feature, Dev Home has been designed to help developers become efficient on Windows. Meanwhile, new AI features and experiences have also been introduced in the Microsoft Stores.
Arun Ulagaratchagan, Corporate Vice President of Azure Data, announced Microsoft Fabric, an end-to-end analytics platform that integrates technologies such as Synapse, Data Factory, and Power BI, into a unified product.
Microsoft Fabric can address every aspect of a company’s analytics need along with empowering each team in the analytics process with experiences defined according to roles.
Microsoft Fabric is an end-to-end analytics product that addresses every aspect of an organization’s analytics needs. (Image: Microsoft)
It features seven core workloads – Data Factory, Synapse Data Engineering, Synapse Data Science, Synapse Data Warehousing, Synapse Real-Time Analytics, Power BI in Microsoft Fabric, and Data Activator. Infused with Azure OpenAI Service at every layer, the Microsoft Fabric is lake-centric, open, and is powered AI.
Framework for building AI apps and copilots
Another key highlight of the event was Microsoft outlining a framework for building AI apps and copilots. Microsoft introduced the concept of AI copilot nearly two years ago with GitHub copilot and this year, the company rolled out its copilot experiences across its products and services.
The company has announced that it has expanded its ecosystem of Microsoft Copilots to include Copilot in Power BI and Power Pages in Preview, Copilot in Microsoft Fabric, and Windows Copilot (to be made available for preview in June). Microsoft has also introduced a set of new features to help developers build their own copilots and next-generation AI applications. These features include plugins that make copilots more useful.
The tech giant showcased an AI development framework that would help developers build their own copilot. The framework includes support for plugins that can allow AI systems to retrieve real-time information, include corporate or business data, perform specific computations, etc.