Microsoft Build Was All About Generative AI; Miro, Mural Both Add Generative AI to Whiteboards; More News
While Microsoft uses its Ignite conference as a showcase for its new products and as a way of outlining its forward planning in a public environment, its developer conference, Build, generally focuses more on the technologies the company has in development.
This year was no different. There was obviously a lot of talk about Copilot, its use across the enterprise and how it will — or won't, as the case may be — improve productivity by helping workers achieve business goals faster. But tools such as Copilot, while new, are old news in a sense — awareness of them is already widespread, and vendors are under high pressure to be seen reacting to and adapting generative AI into their products.
At Build, as result, much of what was announced was related either to tweaking earlier announcements, or the applying Copilot to the remaining platforms and tools where it has not already been integrated or launched. The three big workplace-related takeaways from the event, therefore, were largely already rumored or known.
1. Copilot Plug-ins
One of the big announcements for the workplace from Build came from Kevin Scott, Microsoft’s chief technology officer, who announced that Microsoft is expanding Copilot 365 AI.
In a post about the new plug-ins, John Roach, CTO of digital advisory services at Microsoft, explained that a Copilot is an application that uses AI and large language models to assist users with complex tasks. Microsoft is now adopting the same open plugin standard that OpenAI introduced for ChatGPT, which enables interoperability. Developers will now be able to extend Microsoft 365 Copilot with plug-ins for ChatGPT and Bing, as well as offering Teams message extensions and Power Platform connectors.
Microsoft also said it has expanded this ecosystem of Microsoft Copilots to include Copilot in Power BI and Copilot in Power Pages, which is now in preview.
Roach's post added that Copilot in Microsoft Fabric would also enter preview soon. Fabric is an all-in-one enterprise analytics solution that covers everything from data movement to data science, real-time analytics and business intelligence. The company will also update Windows 11 with Copilot sometime in June.
Users will also be to access third-party plug-ins, including for Adobe, Atlassian, ServiceNow, Thomson Reuters, Moveworks and Mural.
2. Copilot in Edge
Edge, Microsoft's web browser, is also getting some Copilot love. Edge will be getting a full redesign that places Copilot in a sidebar so users have immediate access to it. Microsoft will also update Edge with a targeted work experience that will allow users to separate their browsing experiences into personal experiences and work experiences.
Microsoft is also asking web app developers to support and create Edge sidebar apps.
3. Azure Tooling
Microsoft is also adding new tooling to Azure that is designed to enable developers to create their own generative AI apps. The new Azure AI Studio will enable users to integrate external data into their models, while the new Azure Machine Learning prompt flow will make building prompts easier. Prompts enable machine-learning engineers to train large language models so the same model can be used for different tasks without re-training.
Azure OpenAI Service is also being upgraded to include plug-ins that make integrating with external data sources easier. It will also enable developers to develop and deploy AI models using their own data.
Miro Gives Whiteboard Workplace a Boost with Generative AI
Miro, which develops online whiteboard tools for visual collaboration, has announced that it too will be applying generative AI to its products with the goal of improving cross-functional team workflows including customer research analysis, strategy workshops, technical diagramming and product design.
The company said it will bring 12 AI features to market including the ability to generate, summarize and cluster ideas based on a playsets of the sentiment and keywords. The new features will be available to enterprise customers and users, and will enable Miro to develop and use LLMs to make certain processes more efficient. It will also automatically generate images based on text and provide instant visuals that will summarize complex problems using diagrams.
Globally, it is designed to work across the platform’s capabilities and to auto-create technical diagrams, interpret code, cluster and summarize complex inputs from customer research sessions or strategy sessions.
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An admin control on the new Miro AI should keep all content on a given board safe. Miro also promises that customer proprietary content that is used in creating these models will be used in training models and that all prompts will be erased once the users have finished with them.
Miro was founded in 2011 as RealTimeBoard, and is one of dozens of whiteboard vendors that hit it big at the height of the Covid pandemic as businesses rapidly pivoted to remote work. The addition of generative AI tools is meant to help it stand out in what is now a highly competitive market with independent vendors such as Mural, Figma and Stormboard at play alongside enterprise providers such as Cisco, Google, Microsoft and Zoom.
Mural Adds Generative AI for Enterprise Collaboration
Standing out with AI, though, may be easier said than done at this stage. Mural, another visual collaboration platform that also develops whiteboarding tools, is also adding generative AI to its tools to improve team collaboration.
For its part, it is using Microsoft Azure OpenAI to power the new capabilities, which are designed to streamline common tasks and generate content that will be used to make meetings more effective.
The company said the use of AI will enable workers to spend more time doing meaningful work by providing in-depth analysis of results and possible outcomes.
Mural showed off its new capabilities at Microsoft Build. The company won a Microsoft "Partner of the Year" award in 2022 for its integration with Teams and the wider Microsoft ecosystem.
AI-driven features currently available in the private beta include Mind Maps, Clustering, and Actions. Mural also recently announced a redesign of its user interface to enable easy use of these AI capabilities so that teams can start using them from the get-go.
Ex-OpenAI Execs Raise $450M for Anthropic
Finally this week, San Francisco-based Anthropic, a generative AI company founded in 2021 by former OpenAI executives, said it had raised $450 million. The funding round, led by Spark Capital, also includes investments form the venture arms of Google, Salesforce and Zoom.
Anthropic will use the new financing to expand its product offerings, scale its AI assistant Claude and conduct research on ways to ensure AI systems behave ethically.
In a statement, the company said it is focused on “AI alignment techniques that allow AI systems to better handle adversarial conversations, follow precise instructions and generally be more transparent about their behaviors and limitations.”
Anthropic has been expanding its reach rapidly. Last week, for example, it said it was bringing its Claude chatbot into the Zoom platform and specifically, to the Zoom Contact Center.
This is a red-hot market at the moment, despite the broadly confusing and unsettled economic environment. This week, London-based Builder.ai also announced it had raised Series D funding of more than $250 million, led by Qatar Investment Authority.
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About the Author
David is a European-based journalist of 35 years who has spent the last 15 following the development of workplace technologies, from the early days of document management, enterprise content management and content services. Now, with the development of new remote and hybrid work models, he covers the evolution of technologies that enable collaboration, communications and work and has recently spent a great deal of time exploring the far reaches of AI, generative AI and General AI.