Microsoft has announced plans to implement a significant price increase of at least 53 percent for accessing new artificial intelligence (AI) features in its popular office software suite. The company revealed its intentions during the virtual Inspire conference, offering a glimpse into the potential financial benefits it hopes to derive from AI technology.
Under the new pricing structure, customers will be required to pay $30 per user, per month to utilize the AI copilot in Microsoft 365. This advanced feature, designed to streamline various tasks such as drafting emails in Outlook and creating documents in Word, harnesses the power of AI to make employees’ data easily accessible via a chatbot prompt.
However, this voluntary upgrade will be an additional expense on top of existing monthly plans, which range from $12.50 to $57 per user. Consequently, some Microsoft customers could experience a threefold increase in costs, Reuters news report said.
Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft, emphasized that the investment in the AI copilot would be justified through time savings and increased productivity. For example, the copilot has the ability to summarize Microsoft Teams calls, revolutionizing the way meetings are conducted and eliminating the need for note-taking and attendance.
Though Microsoft did not provide a revenue forecast for the copilot feature, it has already undergone testing by over 600 enterprises since its unveiling in March. However, the AI program is not yet widely available due to the potential high operational costs associated with its implementation.
During the Inspire conference, Microsoft also announced the availability of a more secure version of its Bing search engine for businesses. The move aims to address data-protection concerns raised by enterprises, foster greater interest in AI, and enhance competition with Google.
The enterprise version of Bing, known as Bing Chat Enterprise, includes a bot that generates content and provides comprehensive internet search capabilities. Unlike the public version of Bing, which has been accessible to millions of users, the enterprise version ensures the protection of user data by preventing viewing or saving of information used to train the underlying AI technology. Users will need to log in with their work credentials to benefit from these enhanced privacy measures.
Microsoft’s decision to roll out the enterprise version of Bing follows increasing industry apprehension regarding confidential information being shared through public chatbots, where human reviewers or AI technology may access or reproduce the data through careful manipulation.
Jared Spataro stated that Microsoft has always been transparent about its privacy policies and is eager to bring AI advancements to consumers. The company also revealed new features, including the ability to upload images and conduct related content searches, bringing it more in line with Google’s offerings.
Microsoft’s focus on promoting Bing within the corporate sphere not only positions it to compete with Google in search advertising but also serves as an avenue to drive customers towards Microsoft 365 Copilot. This AI upgrade grants businesses access to valuable data and compliance controls.
Spataro emphasized the strategic significance of the company’s Bing initiative, stating, “It’s a very strategic move for us.”