Microsoft is creeping closer to launching its Copilot AI assistant for Office apps, now branded Microsoft 365 Copilot. We now have firm details of the price and which customers will be eligible for it.
Here’s the full lowdown on when Microsoft 365 Copilot will be available, how much it will cost, who can get it, and the cheaper alternatives that are already on the market.
- Microsoft 365 Copilot release date
- Microsoft 365 Copilot price
- Is Microsoft 365 Copilot worth it?
- Are there cheaper alternatives to Microsoft 365 Copilot?
Microsoft 365 Copilot release date
We don’t yet have a release date for Microsoft 365 Copilot. However, like thundering hooves over the horizon, we can sense its imminent arrival. Microsoft is already briefing its enterprise clients on what the tool can do, and it announced in May that it was further opening up its Early Access programme.
We know customers in the UK are being briefed about the product, but Microsoft 365 Copilot isn’t a simple plugin: there is a lot of preparatory work that must be in place. For example, if a supposedly confidential document is sitting on a SharePoint server but not properly tagged, Copilot could index it — and information from that document could then be shared with staff.
Our best bet is that Microsoft 365 Copilot will be released to enterprise customers in the winter of 2023, possibly early 2024. Non-enterprise customers will likely have to wait until spring 2024. But please note, these are best bets, not certainties.
Microsoft 365 Copilot price
Microsoft 365 Copilot will cost $30 per user per month, in addition to the subscription fee that customers pay to access the Microsoft 365 apps in the first place. UK pricing had not been announced at the time of writing.
It will be available to Microsoft 365 subscribers on the E3 and E5 enterprise plans, and to customers on the Business Standard and Business Premium plans that are geared towards small business.
Given that Microsoft 365 Business Standard costs only £10.30 per month in the UK, you’re looking at more than tripling the cost of the subscription to add Microsoft 365 Copilot. Even on the cheapest enterprise plan, E3, you’d be coming close to doubling the monthly cost per user.
That makes it far from a no-brainer for business customers, although firms will be able to pick and choose which employees to give the AI features to – it isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition.
Is Microsoft 365 Copilot worth it?
Until we can evaluate the full version of the AI assistant, it’s hard to say. Only a select few customers are beta testing Microsoft 365 Copilot at the time of writing, so all we’ve really got to go on is what Microsoft has shown off in demos.
The key factor with Microsoft 365 Copilot is that, unlike more generic AI assistants such as ChatGPT or even Microsoft’s own Bing AI assistant, Copilot will be working with your data in the apps that millions of workers use every day. That means it can do things such as create PowerPoint presentations based on the contents of Word documents, give you a bullet-point summary of a Teams meeting if you’ve joined late, or answer questions such as “what’s our most profitable product in Q2” from Excel spreadsheet data.
If it works as promised, that $30 per user fee could look like a steal for some organisations. But we won’t know for sure until the final product is released.
Are there cheaper alternatives to Microsoft 365 Copilot?
Yes, including ones from Microsoft itself.
Alongside Microsoft 365 Copilot, Microsoft will launch Bing Chat Enterprise, a business-oriented version of the chatbot that’s already available from Bing.com. The key difference here is that chat data isn’t saved, Microsoft has no access to the data you enter, and it won’t be used to train future language models. This means there’s no chance of sensitive business information leaking, according to Microsoft.
The notable difference between Bing Chat Enterprise and Microsoft 365 Copilot is that Bing isn’t built into the Office apps and doesn’t have ready access to your company data stored in Microsoft Graph. For example, you could ask Bing Chat Enterprise to create a 300-word sales pitch for one of your company’s products by pasting in key product specs from a document, but with Microsoft 365 Copilot you could simply ask for the sales pitch and point Copilot to where the relevant document is stored.
Bing Chat Enterprise will be included with Microsoft E3, E5, Business Standard and Business Premium accounts, and it will also be available as a standalone product for $5 per month.
ChatGPT Plus alternative to MSFT365 Copilot
Other alternatives to Microsoft 365 Copilot include the premium version of ChatGPT, called ChatGPT Plus, which is priced at $20 per month. Again, this won’t be built into the Office apps, but it does include plugins that allow you to use the chatbot with different web services, such as Wolfram Alpha, Zapier and many others.
It also includes the new Code Interpreter, which lets you upload files and have that data analysed. You could, for example, upload a spreadsheet containing all the purchases made on your website over the past month and have Code Interpreter attempt to identify trends or produce graphical reports. As just one example, these could show the times of day that individual product purchases were made, so you can better time email marketing shots.
OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, says that files uploaded to Code Interpreter will be removed at the end of each chat session.
Beyond that, there are now thousands of different AI products available that can provide specific AI assistance at a cheaper price.
Take the Excel Formula Bot. This can generate complex spreadsheet formulae and even Visual Basic Analysis (VBA) code from plain-English descriptions, which you can feed into Excel. It’s likely Microsoft 365 Copilot will do similar from within Excel, but this tool costs only $2.99 a month, so if you only want AI assistance for specific tasks, it might be cheaper to hunt out dedicated tools.
UPDATED 27 JULY: We revised and expanded the expected date of release based on new information.
Nathalie Parent, Chief People Officer at Shift Technology: “HR is the conscience of an organisation”
For more than 30 years, Nathalie Parent has led global HR teams, working primarily with software companies. Today she’s Chief People Officer at Shift Technology
Amazon introduces new storage class that makes it cheaper to store rarely used files
Robot carers are real, but caregiving has bigger problems, writes Richard Trenholm in this FlashForward edition