Artificial intelligence (AI) is the technology of the moment, and big tech companies want to capitalize on it.
Unsurprisingly, two of the industry’s giants, Microsoft and Google, both announced the launch of new AI-powered software in the same week.
Google, which has been investing in artificial intelligence (AI) for many years, said it has reached “a pivotal moment” in its AI journey.
Earlier this week, the company announced it was bringing new AI-powered capabilities to Google Workspace — Gmail, Meet, Docs — and the power of AI for developers and businesses looking to build on Google’s language models.
“We are in the midst of another transformation with AI that is having a profound impact on all industries,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO of GoogleCloud, in a opinion.
Microsoft also announced on Thursday that it would integrate AI tools into its office software suite, including Word, Excel and Outlook email.
“Today marks the next major step in the evolution of how we interact with computers, which will fundamentally change the way we work and trigger a new wave of productivity growth,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, in a opinion.
So what changes are in store for users of competitor software?
Google Workspace: Innovators’ New Best Friend?
The old days of writer’s block and awful blank pages might be over. Google plans to embed generative AI in Docs and Gmail to help people write.
The AI model can help create automated drafts for job descriptions or invitations to your birthday party.
“Just enter a topic you want to write about and it will instantly create a draft for you. With your collaborative AI partner, you can continue to refine and edit, and get more suggestions if needed,” Kurian explained.
AI will also help employees rewrite their messages to find the right tone and structure. For example, users could use commands like “Make More Formal” and if they don’t like the first result, a “Show More” button offers options. If users don’t know what tone they want, an “I feel happy” option in Gmail offers “a whole new playful voice.”
The new AI capabilities allow employees to summarize and catch up on long email threads or create quick reports based on multiple Google Docs or emails.
More than 3 billion people are already using Google Workspace’s AI-powered features, like Smart Reply and Smart Compose in Gmail or the automatically generated summaries in Google Docs.
Across Google Workspace, advances in AI will enable users to do things like create automatically generated images based on a prompt, write short email descriptions, create digital presentations, filter long email threads, and more.
And there’s good news for developers, too. The company is also introducing new features that allow innovators to prototype and create their own language models.
For example, a new app called Generative AI App Builder will allow companies and governments to create their own AI-powered chats and digital assistants.
Microsoft’s Copilot: New ChatGPT-style bot
Similar to Google, Microsoft’s AI-powered processing engine – a new feature they’ve dubbed Copilot – will also allow users to do things like summarize long emails, design stories in Word and animate slides in PowerPoint to do.
Microsoft markets the feature as a tool that allows employees to be more productive by saving time they typically spend in their inbox or allowing them to easily analyze trends in Excel.
In a significant move, the tech giant will also add a chat feature called Business Chat, similar to the popular ChatGPT.
It takes commands and performs actions – like assembling an email about a specific project to colleagues – using user data.
‘The best is yet to come’
As with all new technological advances, there is a warning.
“AI is not a substitute for the ingenuity, creativity and intelligence of real people. Sometimes the AI gets it wrong, sometimes it delights you with something fancy, and often it requires guidance,” said Johanna Voolich, vice president of products at Google Workspace, in a statement.
The company develops its new features in line with its AI principles, which put the user in control and let AI make suggestions that they can accept, edit and change.
Google will also provide the appropriate administrative controls to enable businesses and governments to set the correct limits for their organizations.
It’s not clear when the company will roll out the rest of its “best upcoming” features, but Google said it will first gather input and data from customers to refine and improve its offering: “AI-based capabilities will be enhanced through human feedback better”.
The new tools will initially be launched in English in the United States and will be made more widely available to consumers from there once feedback is implemented.
With the help of AI, employees can access it by clicking on a new magic wand icon that appears in their apps.
“Just as we revolutionized real-time collaboration with co-authoring in Docs 17 years ago, we look forward to once again transforming creation and collaboration in Workspace,” the company said.
Similarly, Microsoft will launch its new AI-driven tools with Microsoft 365 general manager Colette Stallbaumer, noting that the new features are currently only available to 20 enterprise customers. Copilot will roll it out to more enterprise customers in the coming months.