A recap of Microsoft Inspire, July 2023
In this blog we break down the main messages from Microsoft Inspire 2023
As their new financial year commences, Microsoft gets ready for its annual Inspire Partner Conference. There were some big announcements last week, so here is a round-up of the inspiring messages that caught my attention.
Bing Chat Enterprise
Since joining forces with OpenAI, Microsoft has been imbedding ChatGPT technology into Bing web search and the Edge sidebar. Inspire launched Microsoft’s next step in AI-powered chat with the preview release of Bing Chat Enterprise.
Importantly, Bing Chat Enterprise gives your organisation “AI-powered chat for work with commercial data protection”. As it uses web data, user and business data are protected, data will not leak outside the organisation and chats are not saved. Microsoft don’t have access to the chat or data either, and it is not used to train the AI Large Language models.
Right now Bing Chat Enterprise has to be switched on by tenant admins, however from mid-August it will be activated automatically for eligible customers, unless you choose to opt out. Bing Chat Enterprise is free of charge but requires a user to be licensed with any of the following plans: M365 Business Standard, M365 Business Premium, M365 E3 or M365 E5 - Frontline, Government and Education Plans are not included at this time. In the future it will be made available standalone at an expected cost of 5USD user/month.
This is a well-trodden Microsoft strategy; providing nuggets of enterprise-grade capability free of charge, as a taster of what’s to come, effectively creating a seeding ground for deeper adoption of Microsoft AI technologies in the future.
Microsoft 365 Copilot
Launched in March via a limited early access programme, M365 Copilot is yet to have a launch date confirmed, but pricing for commercial customers was announced at 30USD/user/month upon release. This will be licensed as an add-on to selected M365 SKUs (again, M365 Business Standard, Premium, M365 E3 and M365 E5).
What are my initial reactions to that sticker price? It feels high but the potential productivity gains could be massive, and for less than £1 per day per user. I suspect adoption will be targeted to specific user groups within an organisation, for example users creating large volumes of content or managing lots of data could perhaps be easily justified. And rather than threatening your job, it’s making you more productive and achieving tasks with less stress!
To start preparing your organisation for Copilot, user credentials, Microsoft apps and data need to be in Microsoft’s cloud (Copilot does not extend to on-premises applications or data stores). User licensing needs to be M365 (rather than O365) – or at least the necessary components of M365 (Azure Active Directory -- sorry, Entra ID -- rather than third party user identity, is a must for example).
Ensuring you have the appropriate information access controls and policies in place will be paramount - Purview Info Protection, data classification controls, content labelling and DLP policies, Teams and SharePoint site permissions spring to mind. Ultimately, Copilot will return results based on the files and data that a user can access, regardless of whether the user should have access.
Copilot generative AI will extend to Teams, with the announcement of Copilot in Teams Phone and Teams chat. Currently in private preview, Copilot in Teams Phone will capture call notes, caller feedback and suggest next steps. And if like me, you are often overwhelmed by the volume of Teams chats you need to keep on top of, Copilot in Teams chat should make a real difference.
Glint and Pulse were announced as now generally available. Copilot capability will be coming to various members of the Viva family, phased in stages. Sales Copilot also launched, which is a rebranding of Viva Sales – and included in D365 Sales or available standalone.
AI, automation and optimisation
These themes are seemingly popping up everywhere. From using AI and machine learning to extract data from documents using Document Intelligence in Azure, optimising existing workflows and creating new ones using process mining in Power Automate and live conversation transcription using Real-time Diarization in Azure AI Speech.
M365 Backup and Archive
This was an interesting announcement, as these services have traditionally been delivered via partner solutions rather than through Microsoft directly. Due for public preview in Q4 this year, Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft 365 Archive will utilise existing Syntex technology, but with API integrations with AvePoint, Barracuda, CommVault, Rubrik, Veeam and Veritas.
Extended Security Updates (ESU)
Finally, not shiny new tech but an important and no doubt welcome change for many customers. The purchase and deployment of ESU is now to be via Azure Arc. This will mean better management of security patching with the flexibility of pay-as-you-go, managed via your Azure portal. This is instead of an annual billing model and availability to purchase only via an Enterprise Agreement. This is available now for SQL 2012 ESU and from September for Windows Server 2012 ESU.
Get in touch
If you want to explore any of these themes or prepare for adoption, Softcat is ready to support you whether it’s advisory, commercial, technical or delivery help you’re after. We’re even about if you just fancy a geeky tech chat!