At the Ignite event held 15-17 November Microsoft announced 100 AI innovations to further empower customers, partners and developers to unlock the potential of its technology. The latest Work Trend Index surveying enterprise users participating in the eight month Copilot trial reported they not only felt more creative and efficient, but more importantly, their productivity improved. For example, those using Copilot for Sales reported saving 90 minutes per week on admin, CRM updates and personalising client communications.
Survey respondents provided a very positive view of Copilot’s functional impact on their working day as it freed time for more creative and demanding work. One survey question asked would users give up their access to Copilot for a free weekly, bi-weekly or monthly lunch provided by their employer, and more than 77% would rather keep Copilot. Another question asked users with Copilot and those without it how much time it took them to write a first draft, search for information from multiple sources or summarise a meeting. Copilot users saved on average six minutes each on the first two tasks and 32 minutes on the meeting summary, suggesting the $30 per month subscription is easily offset by productivity gains.
Microsoft custom AI chips
Probably the most important announcement at Ignite was the release of Microsoft’s own custom chips, the Azure Maia 100 AI chip and Cobalt 100 CPU, due in early 2024. The Maia chip is optimised for cloud based training and inferencing for AI workloads while the Cobalt supports performance, power efficiency and cost effectiveness for general purpose workloads. Microsoft’s initial testing of the new chips showed a 40% improvement in performance compared to current configurations. Amazon and Google have also developed their own silicon in the response to the scarcity of Nvidia’s premium H100 GPU chips.
The Maia chips required Microsoft to develop a custom-built rack for it and its “sidekick”. The sidekick acts like a car radiator, cycling liquid to and from the rack to cool the chips as they handle the heavy computational demands of AI workloads.
During his keynote, Satya Nadella declared we have officially entered the era of Copilot, with Microsoft fully embracing the groundbreaking technology. Several speakers highlighted the launch of new Copilots for both general use and specific industries, significantly enriching its functionality. To summarise some of the highlights:
- Copilot in Edge, Bing and Windows will be released in full, no longer in preview, on December 1
- Microsoft 365 Copilots for business applications can be fine-tuned to cater for specific roles
- Copilot Studio will enable companies to build custom copilots based on their own data
- Copilot for Dynamics 365 combines generative AI with mixed reality for technical teams using the HoloLens
- Copilot for Azure provides a chat based assistant for IT teams administering Azure cloud services
The key takeaway from Ignite is the flexibility and customisation offered to users building their own enterprise-based Copilots, ultimately providing a tangible business advantage.
CEO Satya Nadella left the Ignite conference in Seattle to meet the Australian Prime Minister on the sidelines of the APEC summit in San Francisco to announce a six month trial of Microsoft 365 Copilot across the Australian public service, one of the first governments in the world to adopt the technology. Beginning January 1 2024, 150,000+ APS employees will be assisted by Microsoft staff to develop their AI skills using Copilots across the Microsoft 365 applications.
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