Updates from Microsoft Ignite 2023

This year’s edition of Microsoft Ignite, held in Seattle in November, was predictably heavily focused on AI. Just about every update was either expressly about AI or included a significant amount of attention to it.

While you can still see the keynote and recordings of talks on the Microsoft blog, we’ll give you a quick roundup of what went down and what it means for virtual meetings.

AI Gets a Dedicated Platform

To streamline its AI offerings into both the wider Microsoft ecosystem and to general users not enrolled in its flagship software, Microsoft has introduced Azure AI Studio, an AI platform that will allow organizations and developers to drive further AI innovation.

Azure AI Studio is effectively a user-friendly hub that organizations can use to explore, create, test, and implement AI solutions using integrated tools and machine learning models. Meanwhile developers will be able to develop their own AI applications using native and custom tools.

AI Comes to Teams

Microsoft is continuing to roll out AI for just about every possible product, including Teams. Teams users can now use AI to not just decorate their backgrounds during video calls, but even clean up messy spaces. This unique feature allows users to have AI automatically pick up the odds and ends around their rooms or even add decor, making their spaces more presentable without having to blur their backgrounds or superimpose entirely fabricated ones.

Additionally, Teams users will soon get AI-powered noise reduction (in fact, it may be available by the time you read this). This feature can automatically identify ambient voices and sounds and tone them down, isolating the speakers’ voices.

Multiple Tools Get Consolidated

People who use multiple products from Microsoft’s suite for project management will get a more streamlined experience as it combines To Do, Project, and Planner into Planner. Predictably, Planner will also feature Copilot integration, allowing users to get intelligent insights into workflows, goals, projects, and tasks.

Early access to the consolidated Planner will first be available to Teams users in early 2024, with a broader web edition to follow later in the year.
Copilot Gets Improved Functionality

Unleashed in 2023 for Microsoft 365, Microsoft Copilot has leveraged data and feedback from its early adopters to undergo updates to make it even more functional.

With advanced AI capabilities, Copilot now offers even more accurate and helpful suggestions, making it an invaluable tool for improving productivity and efficiency. It also provides real-time assistance, offering coding suggestions, bug fixes, and more to save valuable time and effort users would otherwise spend on repetitive tasks.

Bing Search and Chat Are Now Copilot

Microsoft continues to work toward making Copilot one of its primary products by not just integrating it into Bing, but replacing its entire Bing suite with it. Bing Chat and Bing Chat Enterprise no longer exist as such, and have been folded into Copilot.

For enterprise use cases with privacy concerns, users with a Microsoft Entra ID will gradually get enhanced commercial data protection while using Copilot in Bing, Edge, and Windows. Microsoft plans to gradually extend the availability of Copilot with commercial data protection to more Entra ID (formerly Azure Active Directory) users without any extra charges.

Copilot is currently available in Windows and online at Copilot.Microsoft.com. It’s also included gratis at various enterprise subscription levels, as well as Microsoft 365 F3. Everyone else can enroll in it for just $5 a month.

AI Avatars Are Coming

Currently available as a preview only, Azure AI Speech will enable users to create an AI-generated avatar of themselves that can then generate its own speech. Rightfully, Microsoft is taking its time to get the execution of this feature right and apply safeguards that can limit its ability to be abused. But once it rolls out properly, it could be an extremely useful communication tool for uses like internal trainings.

Looking Ahead

If there’s a clear general theme to this year’s Microsoft Ignite, it’s the integration of AI. Microsoft seems to be making pretty concerted efforts to build AI into its various products while also positioning Copilot as a user-friendly solution capable of widespread adoption.

Going forward, expect further improvements to both Microsoft’s AI modeling, enhancements to its security and privacy measures, and added AI features for all its products.