Microsoft 365 Copilot rollout set for Nov. 1

Microsoft's M365 Copilot will be made generally available to business customers beginning Nov. 1, the company announced Thursday.

Microsoft first unveiled plans to embed the generative AI assistant into its M365 collaboration and productivity apps - including Outlook, Teams, Excel, and PowerPoint - earlier this year. The M365 Copilot, built using gen AI models codeveloped with OpenAI, can automate tasks and create content, potentially saving users time and enhancing productivity.

Microsoft piloted the new AI assistant with several hundred large business customers in recent months ahead of the full launch. The companies that tested it out included General Motors, KPMG, and Visa.

After its launch in November, the Copilot will cost $30 per user each month for customers on the E3, E5, Business Standard, and Business Premium pricing tiers. This is the same price as Google, which announced the availability of its Duet genAI features last month in its Workspace suite - a rival to Microsoft's own office software tools - which includes Gmail, Docs and Sheets. Other collaboration and productivity software vendors, such as Slack and Zoom, are also building generative AI into their products.

Small and medium-sized businesses will also get early access to a pilot program for the M365 Copilot, Microsoft announced in a blog post. This is currently invite -nly, but will be expanded "over time."

"The [general availability] of M365 Copilot is long awaited and Gartner sees strong demand from those who were not able to join the limited private preview; there is really a sense of 'fear of missing out,'" said Jason Wong, distinguished vice president analyst at Garter. "We advise and expect most customers to do smaller rollouts to manage risk as well as assess value. However, government and education organizations will have to wait a bit longer, as there is no timeline announced for those verticals."

While Microsoft has touted the productivity benefits of Copilot, the language models that underpin generative AI can create certain risks when used in a business context. Language models have the potential to output incorrect and copyright-infringing content, for instance, as well as presenting potential security and data protection risks. Microsoft recently announced it would defend M365 customers against any copyright-related legal claims that might occur as a result of outputs generated by the M365 Copilot.

At an event in New York, Microsoft also announced that the AI chatbot built into the M365 suite of apps has been rebranded from Business Chat to Microsoft 365 Chat. And the company said it plans to launch its Windows Copilot on Sept. 26. This will be available to commercial customers for free, Microsoft said.