Just over a month ago, Microsoft massively upgraded its Bing search engine with artificial intelligence and launched the hunt for Google. Now the world’s largest software company is following suit.

Microsoft will integrate comprehensive artificial intelligence functions into its office applications. This was announced by CEO Satya Nadella in Redmond. With “Microsoft 365 Copilot”, users of Office programs could benefit from the new AI functions that have been causing a stir in the IT world for months.

The programs include the word processor Word, the presentation software PowerPoint, the Excel spreadsheet and the e-mail and calendar program Outlook.

Nadella: Historic step

“Today marks the next big step in the evolution of how we interact with computers,” Nadella said. The CEO put the announcement in line with the legendary presentation of the graphical user interface by computer scientist Doug Engelbart (1963) and the premiere of the first iPhone (2007).

“This will fundamentally change the way we work and unleash a new wave of productivity growth,” he said. With the new “co-pilot for work”, Microsoft gives people more freedom of action and makes technology more accessible via the most universal interface – natural language.

Nadella presented a new type of business chat together with Microsoft manager Jared Spataro. This not only works with the data of a public AI language model, but also accesses personal data such as calendar entries, e-mails, chats and other documents of the users. “You can use it to do things you’ve never been able to do before,” Spataro promised. You can give the program verbal instructions, such as: “Tell my team how we updated the product strategy.” The software will then create an appropriate status update based on the meetings, emails and chat histories on the topic.

The meaning of GPT-4

With the broad-based AI offensive, Microsoft is attacking Google’s previously untouched leading position in the areas of Internet search and online advertising. The integration of the text robot ChatGPT in Bing and the Microsoft Edge browser plays a key role here. With “Microsoft 365 Copilot”, the world’s largest software group also wants to secure and further expand its supremacy in the field of office software.

The technology used by Microsoft is based on the GPT-4 language model, which was only presented to a broader public on Wednesday by the Californian start-up OpenAI. Among other things, GPT-4 is said to deliver better results than the previous variants and also understands visual content as input. Spataro emphasized that the “Microsoft Copilot” is more than OpenAI’s ChatGPT. It is a “sophisticated processing engine that works behind the scenes” to combine the power of public language models with the Microsoft 365 Apps and the data generated with them (“Microsoft Graph”).

On Tuesday, Google announced it would be rolling out a range of new generative AI capabilities across its various workspace apps, including Google Docs, GMail, Sheets and Slides. The functions include new ways to generate or summarize texts with AI and to collect ideas. Thanks to the AI, full emails can then be generated in GMail based on short bullet points.