Microsoft Copilot: what it is, AI, cost, 365

Microsoft Copilot: what it is, AI, cost, 365

Microsoft's Copilot generative AI comes to Windows, Edge, Office apps, and Bing. It will soon be available even on the Microsoft Windows keyboard. But what exactly is it? Here's everything you need to know.

What is Copilot?

Microsoft touts its Copilot generative AI service as "your everyday AI add-on." Sounds good, but what does it actually mean? Well, Copilot is a conversational chat interface that lets you search for specific information, generate text such as emails and summaries, and create images based on the requests you type. For example, if you tell it "Summarize this memo in two sentences," Copilot will do exactly that by providing you with a summary, written in the chat below your request. The same goes for images when you describe what you want it to draw. You can even ask Copilot to write code in many of the most commonly used computer languages, such as JavaScript, C and Python.

It is worth mentioning that Copilot is still under development and is constantly changing in terms of how it works, what it is, and what it does. For example, until the end of 2023, Microsoft had something called Bing Chat, which was combined with Copilot, but now everything is simply called Copilot. Also, the components and design of the service keep changing. Recently, a Notepad feature disappeared from the web interface and the design of the Copilot web page changed. The back-end technology and interfaces are also continually evolving, although the basics remain the same.

For now, Copilot is only available in certain regions and works in English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Brazilian Portuguese.

How to activate Copilot and what is it for?

You can use Copilot in the interfaces and applications listed below. In all of them, Copilot can answer questions and generate text and images, but it has unique options in some of them.

  • The Copilot website: On the Copilot website and in the Bing-integrated assistant, these are the only places where you can use add-ons, such as OpenTable for reserving restaurant tables and Kayak for finding and booking travel. (Add-on support is planned to come to the Windows 11 sidebar at a later date). You can activate up to three add-ons during your Copilot session.
  • Copilot sidebar in Windows: The special power of Copilot in Windows is that it allows you to change system settings, such as switching to dark mode, adjusting the volume, or turning on "Do Not Disturb" mode. You can also ask it to summarize the text you select on your Windows desktop. The option to open some applications was built into an earlier version of the Copilot sidebar and is expected to return, but is currently unavailable. New computers will even come with a Copilot key on their keyboards to enable AI.
  • Copilot in Bing search and the Bing app: With Copilot in Bing, you can switch between AI and normal search. Simply scroll the mouse wheel up and down to switch between the two.
  • Copilot sidebar in your Microsoft Edge browser: The Edge sidebar includes separate buttons for regular Copilot text interactions and image creation with the help of Microsoft Designer.
  • Copilot mobile app for iOS and Android: These apps are identical and let you choose between GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 AI models with a selector button.
  • Microsoft 365 apps: With a paid subscription, you can use Copilot directly in Microsoft 365 apps such as Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Teams (although Copilot for Teams requires a paid subscription). Companies that install Microsoft 365 can base Copilot's answers on their data, i.e. you can ask Copilot about specific information that can be found in your Word documents, Outlook emails or Microsoft Teams chats.
© Microsoft

Is Copilot free?

You can use Copilot on the web on Windows, macOS, and iPadOS, in the Windows sidebar, your Microsoft Edge browser, and in the iOS and Android apps completely free of charge. You only need to pay for Copilot when you want to use it within Microsoft 365 apps ($30), when you need to base your results on your data, and when you want to use a faster model or generate images more quickly. For those cases, you need a Copilot Pro subscription, which costs $20 per month.

What are the advantages of Copilot over ChatGPT and Gemini?

  • Copilot is based on OpenAI's leading generative artificial intelligence tools, such as ChatGPT-4 and DALL-E 3. If you were to use any of these tools in ChatGPT, you would have to pay for a ChatGPT Plus subscription. With Copilot, you get them for free.
  • Voice input and spoken responses: You can interact with Copilot using your voice (unlike ChatGPT and Google Gemini) in addition to typing text.
  • Uploading images: In some cases, you can upload images to Copilot.
  • Choosing the style: When you ask Copilot to write a text, you can choose the style of the response from the "More creative", "More balanced" or "More accurate" options.
  • Links to sources: Although you will normally get the full answer in the chat, Copilot includes links to its sources of information more prominently than other AI chatbots.
  • Choice of AI models: In the Copilot mobile app, you can select GPT-3.5 (faster) or GPT-4 (more accurate) to feed your chats. Copilot Pro subscribers can choose GPT-4 Turbo for even faster and more accurate responses.
  • Free image generation: With ChatGPT, you need a paid Plus account to use DALL-E image generation. With Copilot, creating images is free.