Security Stop Press : New Phishing Campaign Targeting Teams

Microsoft has warned of a new phishing campaign from the “financially motivated” Storm-0324 threat actor which uses an open-source tool to send phishing lures through Microsoft Teams chats.

The goal is accessing corporate networks and enabling follow-on attacks like ransomware, i.e. handing off access to compromised networks to other threat actors. The campaign leverages the open-source TeamsPhisher tool to attach files to messages.

Microsoft says it has rolled out improvements to better defend against the threat and has suspended identified accounts. Microsoft also gives a list of recommendations to harden networks against Storm-0324 attacks on its website here.

Tech News : EU Teams To Be Unbundled From 365

Following pressure resulting from a formal investigation by the European Commission over a possible breach of competition rules, Microsoft has announced that it will begin unbundling Teams from Office 365 and Microsoft 365 in European markets.

Antitrust Investigation 

Following a complaint by Slack three years ago, this July the European Commission opened an antitrust investigation into Microsoft’s bundling of its Teams app with its Office suite over concerns that it could be in breach of the EU’s competition rules.

Slack Complaint 

In the July 2020 complaint that led to the EC investigation, Slack said on its website: “Microsoft has illegally tied its Teams product into its market-dominant Office productivity suite, force installing it for millions, blocking its removal, and hiding the true cost to enterprise customers”.  

David Schellhase, General Counsel at Slack said: “Slack simply wants fair competition and a level playing field. Healthy competition drives innovation and creates the best products and the most choice for customers. Competition and antitrust laws are designed to ensure that dominant companies are not allowed to foreclose competition illegally. We’re asking the EU to be a neutral referee, examine the facts, and enforce the law.”   

The Investigation – Concerns 

The EC’s investigation centred on concerns that Microsoft’s bundling of Teams with its other software could put rival online meetings and communications software (like Slack and others) at a disadvantage. The EC said that Microsoft’s practices “may constitute anticompetitive tying or bundling and prevent suppliers of other communication and collaboration tools from competing, to the detriment of customers in the European Economic Area”, and that, “The commission is concerned that Microsoft may be abusing and defending its market position in productivity software by restricting competition in the EEA for communication and collaboration products.” 

Will Unbundle It, Starting In October 

Microsoft’s response to the concerns outlined in the investigation has been for Nanna-Louise Linde, Vice President, Microsoft European Government Affairs to announce, “proactive changes that we hope will start to address these concerns in a meaningful way, even while the European Commission’s investigation continues and we cooperate with it.”

The ‘proactive changes’ (unbundling) will impact Microsoft 365 and Office 365 suites for business customers in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. Microsoft says that, in the coming months, it will take the following steps:

– Beginning October 1, 2023, Teams will be unbundled from Microsoft 365 and Office 365 suites in the EEA and Switzerland. Microsoft says that instead it will simply sell these offerings without Teams at a lower price (€2 less per month or €24 per year).

– It will enhance its existing resources on interoperability with Microsoft 365 and Office 365, e.g. to allow companies like Zoom and Salesforce to create tailored and integrated experiences across Exchange, Outlook and even Teams.

– It will create new ways to enable third-party solutions to host Office web applications. For example, Microsoft says it will develop a new method for hosting the Office web applications within competing apps and services, much like it already does in Teams.

Investigated Before 

As some commentators have pointed out, Microsoft has been investigated before by the EU for similar bundling practices. For example, in the early 2000s, the EU ordered Microsoft to unbundle its media player from its Windows operating system, arguing that the bundling practice was anticompetitive. In fact, Microsoft has incurred £1.9bn in EU antitrust fines over the last decade for practices that breach EU competition rules, e.g. by bundling products together.

That said, Microsoft certainly doesn’t have the ‘monopoly’ on triggering antitrust investigations. For example, back in 2018, Google was fined £3.8 billion for pre-installing its search engine and browser on Android devices, which was seen as an abuse of its dominant position.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Having already incurred almost a couple of £ billion in fines from the EU over antitrust-related issues in the last decade, it seems that Microsoft would now rather comply than have to offer more self-limiting remedies and risk a mega-fine of (potentially) up to 10 per cent of its total annual turnover. The dominant position of its suite of products means that any bundling is jumped-upon quickly by competitors, some of whom (Slack and Zoom) have grown dramatically and gained in power, share, and influence since the pandemic restrictions skyrocketed their user-numbers.

In its defence, Microsoft says that including modern communication and collaboration capabilities in its business suites was simply in response to what customers expect from a modern work solution. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s market dominance and history make it difficult for Microsoft to do anything other than hold its hand up and politely agree to unbundling.

For competitors like Slack, this may seem like a victory and something that’s long overdue. For customers in Europe, the positive spin is that Microsoft’s suite of products without Teams bundled will cost a little less, but then there’s still the added inconvenience of having to add Teams and then presumably pay the bit of extra money on top for it. As mentioned above, Microsoft’s certainly not the only big tech company to have run into problems over antitrust rules and since the tech world is still dominated by just a few major players, it’s unlikely to be the last time we see this sort of thing.

Featured Article : Google’s Answer To Copilot

In this article, we take at what Google’s ‘Duet’ is, it’s features and potential benefits to businesses, and the price.


Introduced in May this year, Duet AI in the Google Cloud is essentially Google’s answer to Microsoft’s Copilot. Duet is a paid-for, “always on” AI assistant and “collaborator” that is embedded within (and works across) all the Workspace apps including Gmail, Drive, Slides, and Docs, linking them together to provide value-adding synergies.

The Benefits 

Google says Duet offers a “personalised and intent-driven cloud experience” and that, just as Copilot does with Microsoft’s apps, it provides cohesions of the apps and offers users a more holistic picture of the Google Cloud. Also, being able to ask Duet for help with anything related to Google Cloud’s apps on demand saves time and makes Google Cloud more accessible (and personal) to any type of user at any skill level.

Examples Of What It Can Do 

Some examples of what Duet can do include:

– Providing recommendations for building and operating apps with Google Cloud (Codey, one of the models that powers Duet AI has been pre-trained with the necessary code). For example, Duet AI for AppSheet lets users create business applications, connect their data, and build workflows into Google Workspace via natural language, all with no coding required and with users simply needing to describe their needs for apps in a chat guided by AI-powered prompts.

– Giving code recommendations, generating full functions and code blocks, and identifying vulnerabilities and errors in the code, while suggesting fixes.

– Creating slides for a presentation from Google Docs or make charts from data in spreadsheets.

– Writing email responses (Duet is embedded in Gmail), summarising documents, checking grammar, and generating images, e.g. custom visuals in Slides.

– Summarising long threads in Chat, providing automated meeting summaries in Meet, and allowing users to easily alter sound and visuals in Meet with studio look, studio lighting, and studio sound. Duet can also provide dynamic tiles (a named tile) and face detection for Meet attendees.

– Giving real-time chat assistance on various topics, e.g. how to use certain cloud services or functions, and giving detailed implementation plans for cloud projects.


From May it’s only been available to a limited number of Google Cloud users with others being invited to sign-up via Google Cloud’s AI Trusted Tester Program. However, Google announced on August 29 that Duet AI for Google Workspace is generally available now as a “no-cost trial”.

How Much? 

Google says, for larger organisations, Duet is priced at $30 per user (on top of the existing Workspace subscription), the same price as Microsoft’s Copilot.

Will It Really Work? 

Although Google Workspace has 3 billion users and more than 10 million paying customers, Google says Duet has so far been used by just thousands of companies and “more than a million trusted testers”. This means it’s still early days when you compare it to ChatGPT which was released 9 months before and has around 100 million users and had 1.6 billion visits to its site in June. That said, when Copilot was announced back in March, Microsoft said it was only being tested by 20 customers (although these included 8 within Fortune 500 enterprises).

The point is, however, anyone who’s used generative AI knows it can’t be trusted 100 per cent, and sometimes gets things wrong / makes things up so a reality check, the right prompts, and a good period of widespread use (and, therefore, more training) are needed to improve the outputs of AI work assistants like these. It should, however remembered, that Duet is mainly designed and focused specifically on working with Google Clouds apps so, hopefully, it should be relatively reliable.

Plans For More 

As with Copilot, Google says there’s plans to expand the capabilities of Duet with Google’s Workspace.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Google’s keen to points out that Duet enables users to “get back to the best parts of their jobs, to the parts that rely on human creativity, ingenuity, and expertise” by simplifying and speeding up the parts that would have taken time trawling through data and manually summarising and putting reports, visuals, and other things together.

Like Copilot, some of the main advantages of Duet are that it allows business users to get more value from the synergies of making more holistic use of many Google apps, i.e. it provides an instant, on-demand, flexible, and effective way to get much more out the most popular apps.

As with Microsoft’s Copilot, businesses using Google’s Duet can save time, be more creative with IT, boost productivity, upskill staff in IT (without spending on training), and get greater and perhaps new insights into their own business and operations.

All this, however, comes at the price of $30 per user which (as with Copilot which is the same price) has been criticised by some for being quite expensive. Since we’re still at the very early stages of businesses trying and using Copilot and now Duet, plus with businesses wanting to protect the source of any competitive advantages, it’s not easy to find any clear information of how much of a boost to productivity and profits either are, so making the decision to take the plunge may be based more on price which (at the moment) may not be particularly attractive. That said, Duet does offer some tempting capabilities and potential benefits to businesses.

Tech Insight : Python in Excel … So What?

Following the announcement that Microsoft is releasing a public preview of Python in Excel, we look at what this will mean for Excel users and how it could help businesses.

What Is Python? 

The initial version was created in the late 1980s by Guido van Rossum, with its first official release, Python 0.9.0, coming out in February 1991. It was named after the eponymous Monty Python Show, after having been developed as a successor to the ABC language and was intended to be easy to read and allow for concise code, among other goals.

It’s regarded as a good general-purpose programming language that’s relatively easy to learn due to its simple and straightforward syntax. Python is often used in creating web applications and artificial intelligence applications, and it is the language behind platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.

Added To Excel 

Last week, Microsoft announced that is releasing a Public Preview of Python in Excel, thereby enabling the combination of Python and Excel analytics within the same workbook, with no setup required. Microsoft says: “With Python in Excel, you can type Python directly into a cell, the Python calculations run in the Microsoft Cloud, and your results are returned to the worksheet, including plots and visualisations.”  In short, this means that Excel users will be able to carry out advanced data analysis in the familiar Excel environment, by accessing Python from the Excel ribbon.

Two other key benefits of the integration highlighted by Microsoft are that it runs securely on the Microsoft Cloud, thereby keeping data private, and it is built to work with Teams. This enables colleagues to (seamlessly) interact with and refresh Python in Excel based analytics without needing to worry about installing additional tools, Python runtimes, or managing libraries and dependencies.

What Sort Of Things Can Be Done With The Excel/Python Combination?

Python’s ability to manipulate Excel tables will be of particular help to businesses that frequently work with data because it offers many practical benefits and uses. For example:

– Saving time by automating repetitive tasks in excel, e.g. formatting, or reorganising data.

– Potentially getting better data insights because Python enables the handling of large data sets and can be more efficient in processing and analysing that data.

– Saving time and doing a better job of data cleaning, e.g. Python is better at locating missing values, standardising formats, removing duplicates, and using techniques like regular expressions for pattern-based transformations.

– Improved data analysis and analytics due to the use of Python’s powerful data analysis libraries, e.g. Pandas, Matplotlib, and scikit-learn and the fact that Python in Excel leverages Anaconda (a popular enterprise repository) Distribution for Python running in Azure. This can help with complex calculations, statistical analysis, and data transformations that might be cumbersome or inefficient in Excel.

– Advanced visualisation. I.e., Python charting libraries like Matplotlib and seaborn enabling the creation of a wide variety of charts, spanning from conventional bar graphs and line plots to more specialized visualisations such as heatmaps, violin plots, and swarm plots.

– Helping to focus collaborative work efforts, e.g. where multiple people or systems are providing data in different formats or structures, Python acts as an aggregator, harmonising and consolidating diverse data sources into a single Excel sheet or structure.

– Python scripts can be scheduled to run at specified intervals, thereby making it easier to update or analyse Excel data even when you’re not around.

– Using Python as a bridge to enable Excel data to interact with other web applications, databases, or other external systems.

– Python scripts can be used to create custom functions not natively available in Excel, thereby expanding the scope of what can be done with Excel.

– Python can be used to periodically back up Excel files and even maintain versions (if needed).

– Python libraries like scikit-learn and statsmodels can be leveraged to apply popular machine learning, predictive analytics, and forecasting techniques, e.g. regression analysis, time series modelling, and more.


Some everyday examples of how using the power of Python in Excel could help businesses include:

– Making monthly sales reports better as well as faster and easier to produce. For example, if a sales manager needs to compile monthly sales reports and receives sales data from multiple regions in different Excel files, a Python script can be written to automatically consolidate all these files into a master report.

– Helping to track the expenses of a small business by using Python to automatically categorise and summarise expenses from an Excel sheet, thereby helping to track where money is being spent most frequently.

– In retail, a store manager could use a Python script to alert them when inventory for a particular item goes below a certain threshold (based on the data in the Excel inventory list).

– Financial analysts could predict future revenue or costs by using Python apply complex forecasting models on past financial data in Excel.

– In accounts, if a business needs to generate bulk invoices, Python can be used to save time by pulling data from an Excel sheet (like client details and amounts) and produce individual invoice files for each client.

– A business with critical data in Excel can have Python scripts scheduled to automatically back up these files at regular intervals, thereby ensuring data safety.

Other examples of what businesses can use Python scripts in combination with Excel include employee scheduling, e.g. generating shift schedules, quickly analysing any customer feedback collected in Excel, automatically highlighting best prices collected in Excel from different vendors, calculating commission for sales staff from figures collected in Excel, and analysing supplier delivery performance, e.g. delivery date and time records held in Excel.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

In short, releasing Python in Excel enables businesses (that leverage the integration) to effectively ‘supercharge’ their data processing and analysis capabilities, thereby giving them the ability to handle more complex tasks, larger data sets, and integrate with a broader range of technologies.

This could improve productivity, competitiveness, give new insights and reveal new business opportunities, save time, and produce better quality reports and visualisations which can improve transparency and business decision making. The fact(s) that Python in Excel doesn’t require any setup, integrates seamlessly with Teams, plus works securely in the cloud must surely also be attractive to businesses, many of whom now have remote and flexible working (all Teams users have access and security worries are minimised). Most businesses must, however, wait a little longer to start using the power of Python in Excel because it’s currently only available to users running Beta Channel on Windows and Microsoft 365 Insider Program members, although it will start to roll out with build 16.0.16818.20000, and then to the other platforms at a later date.

Tech News : Seven Safeguarding SamurAI?

Following warnings about threats posed by the rapid growth of AI, the US White House has reported that seven leading AI companies have committed to developing safeguards.

Voluntary Commitments Made 

A recent White House fact sheet has highlighted how, in a bid to manage the risks posed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and to protect Americans’ rights and safety, President Biden met with and secured voluntary commitments from seven leading AI companies “to help move toward safe, secure, and transparent development of AI technology”. 

The companies who have made the voluntary commitments are Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft, and OpenAI.

What Commitments? 

In order to improve safety, security, and trust, and to help develop responsible AI, the voluntary commitments from the companies are:

Ensuring Products are Safe Before Introducing Them to the Public

– Internal and external security testing of their AI systems before their release, carried out in part by independent experts, to guard against AI risks like biosecurity and cybersecurity.

– Sharing information across the industry and with governments, civil society, and academia on managing AI risks, e.g. best practices for safety, information on attempts to circumvent safeguards, and technical collaboration.

Building Systems that Put Security First 

– Investing in cybersecurity and insider threat safeguards to protect proprietary and unreleased model weights (regarded as the most essential part of an AI system). The model weights will be released only when intended and when security risks are considered.

– Facilitating third-party discovery and reporting of vulnerabilities in their AI systems, e.g. putting a robust reporting mechanism in place to enable vulnerabilities to be found and fixed quickly.

Earning the Public’s Trust 

– Developing robust technical mechanisms to ensure that users know when content is AI generated, such as a watermarking system, thereby enabling creativity AI while reducing the dangers of fraud and deception.

– Publicly reporting their AI systems’ capabilities, limitations, and areas of appropriate and inappropriate use, covering both security risks and societal risks (e.g. the effects on fairness and bias).

– Prioritising research on the societal risks that AI systems can pose, including those on avoiding harmful bias and discrimination, and protecting privacy.

– Developing and deploying advanced AI systems to help address society’s greatest challenges, e.g. cancer prevention, mitigating climate change, thereby (hopefully) contributing to the prosperity, equality, and security of all.

To Be Able To Spot AI-Generated Content Easily 

One of the key aspects of more obvious issues of risk associated with AI is the fact that people need to be able to definitively tell the difference between real content and AI generated content. This could help mitigate the risk of people falling victim to fraud and scams involving deepfakes or believing misinformation and disinformation spread using AI deepfakes which could have wider political and societal consequences.

One example of how this may be achieved, with the help of the AI companies, is the use of watermarks. This refers to embedding a digital marking in images and videos which is not visible to the human eye but can be read by certain software and algorithms and give information about whether it’s been produced by AI. Watermarks could help in tackling all kinds of issues including passing-off, plagiarism, stopping the spread of false information, tackling cybercrime (scams and fraud), and more.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Although AI is a useful business tool, the rapid growth-rate of AI has outstripped the pace of regulation. This has led to fears about the risks of AI when used to deceive, spread falsehoods, and commit crime (scams and fraud) as well as the bigger threats such as political manipulation, societal destabilisation, and even the existential threat to humanity. This, in-turn, has led to the first stage action. Governments, particularly, need to feel that they can get the lid partially back on the “genie’s bottle” so that they can at least ensure safeguards are built-in early-on to mitigate risks and threats.

The Biden administration getting at least some wide-ranging voluntary commitments from the Big AI companies is, therefore, a start. Given that many of signatories to the open letter calling for 6-month moratorium on systems more powerful that GPT-4 were engineers from those big tech companies, it’s also a sign that more action may not be too far behind. Ideas like watermarking look a likely option and no doubt there’ll be more ideas.

AI is transforming businesses in a positive way although many also fear how the automation it offers could result in big job losses, thereby affecting economies. This early stage is, therefore, the best time to make a real start in building in the right controls and regulations that allow the best aspects of AI to flourish and keep the negative aspects in check, but this complex subject clearly has a long way to run.

Tech-Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in Tech-History …

August 6, 1997 : Microsoft & Apple Cooperate

By the mid-1990s, Apple was in dangerously bad shape. The company’s market share was dwindling, its product line was confused, and it was bleeding money. Their future looked bleak, and it needed a lifeline and they all knew it.

Enter Microsoft, led by Bill Gates (the then-richest man in the world). On August 6, 1997, at the Macworld Expo in Boston, Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, announced a surprising partnership with Microsoft. The announcement, made via a live video feed of Gates, was met with a mixture of boos and applause from the audience.

The deal involved Microsoft investing $150 million in Apple in exchange for non-voting shares, thereby providing Apple with much-needed cash. Furthermore, Microsoft committed to continue developing its Office software for Mac for the next five years, ensuring that Mac users could access the same productivity tools as PC users. In return, Apple agreed to make Internet Explorer the default web browser on its machines.

It’s fair to say that the more cynical among us might prefer to look “under the bonnet” of this deal because at the time there were concerns around monopolies, patent infringements and potentially even darker issues that we’ll likely never be allowed to know. Plus, both companies aren’t strangers to spinning positive PR, so it’s probably wise to keep an open mind.

Nevertheless, it worked insofar as it demonstrated that even fierce competitors could find common ground and collaborate for mutual benefit. The agreement allowed Apple to regain its footing and eventually launch a series of innovative products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, which revolutionised the tech industry.

36 Cents per Chat Query Prompts $30 Microsoft Fee

Microsoft’s announcement of pricing for its AI productivity suite 365 Copilot shows its intent to monetise its AI, ending any expectations of free AI provision.

Furthering Its (Monetising) Ambitions – Microsoft 365 Copilot & Bing Chat Enterprise 

Announced under the heading “furthering our ambitions”, Microsoft has released details of both Bing Chat Enterprise and Microsoft 365 Copilot pricing.

Bing Chat Enterprise is an AI-powered chat tool for work with commercial data protection that’s accessible for subscriber via and the Microsoft Edge sidebar in their work account.

Microsoft 365 Copilot is the company’s AI chatbot, processing, and orchestration engine that’s embedded in the Microsoft 365 apps and works behind the scenes to combine the power of LLMs like GPT-4, with the Microsoft 365 apps and business data in the Microsoft Graph.

Microsoft 365 Copilot Pricing 

Microsoft has announced that 365 pricing for Copilot for commercial customers will be $30 per user, per month for Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard and Business Premium customers (when broadly available). The pricing follows the expansion of the Microsoft 365 Copilot paid Early Access Program in May to 600 enterprise customers worldwide, including companies like KPMG, Lumen, and Emirates NBD. The company is confident that the value of Copilot expressed during the Early Access Program and the AI tool’s benefits justify the price tag, saying: “The more customers use Copilot, the more their enthusiasm for Copilot grows. Soon, no one will want to work without it.”

Why Microsoft Says It’s Worth The Extra $360 Per Year 

In its pricing announcement, Microsoft reminded users what makes Copilot worth the extra investment, citing:

– Unlike some generative AI apps, Copilot doesn’t focus on a single capability but “puts thousands of skills at your command and can reason over all your content and context to take on any task”.

– Copilot’s good on its own, but also integrated into the popular 365 apps (millions of people use daily).

– It uses the customer’s actual business data in the Microsoft Graph thereby “grounding” it – making it practically useful and customised.

Microsoft’s Investment In AI (And OpenAI)

Microsoft has invested heavily in AI and incorporating it into its products. For example, OpenAI, ChatGPT’s developers, first partnered with Microsoft in July 2019 in a collaboration aimed at bringing OpenAI’s technologies to Microsoft’s cloud services, allowing customers to build and run AI-powered applications and services. ChatGPT is also supported by Microsoft’s Azure services as part of the collaboration.

Fast forward to today and OpenAI’s models and generative capability have been deployed across Microsoft’s consumer and enterprise products as Copilot in (for example) 365 Copilot, Copilot for Viva, Copilot X (for coding), and Security Copilot.

A Lesson From ChatGPT 

It’s clear that Microsoft has learned from ChatGPT’s experience, i.e. having to introduce a $20 version relatively early on to cover its operating costs, estimated in April to have been $700,000 per day / 36 cents per query (ref. SemiAnalysis) and, therefore, has realised the need for and the potential value of monetising Copilot as early as possible.

Also, with many businesses now having fully adopted ChatGPT as an important business tool, realised its benefits (and therefore the benefits of generative AI), and with many having signed up happily to the $20 version, $30 for what Microsoft sees as an added value, wider scope version probably seems to Microsoft like a fair price. To Microsoft at least.


Some commentators, however, still have some questions about a possible lack of case studies, figures, and success stories to date about how companies have actually been using Copilot in the real world to demonstrably improve productivity, efficiency, creativity, and profits. No doubt, these will come in time as Copilot is relatively new to most businesses.

Also, since Copilot is grounded in a company’s own data, it’s arguably important to have quality data in the Microsoft Graph to get a quality output. For example, as ChatGPT users will know, the better the prompt and help that the chatbot’s given as an instruction, the better the relevance and quality of its output.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

It’s true that the operating costs of AI chatbots are high, as experienced by ChatGPT. Many businesses are already aware of the value of generative AI and as with ChatGPT, have shown that paying for a ‘business’ version is popular. These are two reasons why, along with its considerable investment in AI, Microsoft’s “Ambitions” already include charging $30 per user per month for Copilot which the company sees as more than just a one-trick AI pony. Copilot’s integration into popular apps and its ability to work across the whole 365 suite as an orchestrating engine offers businesses obvious productivity and efficiency benefits, provided users are able to understand and harness its power, and this ability to get much greater value from Microsoft 365 that could translate into profits may be something that businesses feel is worth the extra money.

Just as Microsoft is committed to AI across its services, AI is something that’s spreading across all areas of work and personal life in some form or another and with Microsoft and OpenAI both charging for it, perhaps expect (business) AI services coming from other providers to be chargeable too.

Tech Insight : How ‘Copilot’ Can Help Your Business

In this tech insight, we take a look at what Microsoft 365 Copilot is, how it is being used, and how it can help your business.

What Is Copilot? 

Introduced in March 2023, Microsoft 365 Copilot is an AI assistant that’s embedded within the Microsoft 365 apps and services to help users save time and increase productivity. Copilot, created using ChatGPT version 4 and Microsoft Graph (an API developer platform that connects multiple services and devices) and, like ChatGPT, is essentially a natural language conversational chatbot that can give human-like responses to questions and link aspects of all the 365 apps together in a new and more productive way.

Improves Productivity, Creativity, & Upskilling 

Microsoft says that Copilot can increase your employee’s productivity by as much as 50 per cent. In general, whereas the ‘average person’ uses 10 per cent of what Microsoft 365 apps can do, Microsoft says Copilot can unlock the other 90 per cent, thereby improving productivity, creativity, upskilling, and maximising use of business tech resources.

Embedded In Popular Apps

The Copilot AI assistant has been embedded in popular Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams, so that it can be used to help users to use 365 apps more creatively, productively, and in a way that can “uplevel skill”, that means (as Microsoft says) it can make you “better at what you’re good at and lets you quickly master what you’ve yet to learn”.

Business Chat   

Copilot is operated in Microsoft 365 by ‘Business chat’, which is the field (like that in ChatGPT) where you ask the chatbot questions and give it instructions using normal language. For example, to generate a status-update based on the morning’s meetings, emails and chat threads, type in “Tell my team how we updated the product strategy”.  

How Have Businesses Said They’re Using Copilot? 

A few examples online of where businesses written about how they are using Copilot or have been reported to be using Copilot include:

– Baker Hughes, an energy technology company, using GitHub Copilot to help their developers write code faster and with fewer errors.

– The New York Times is reported to use GitHub Copilot to help their developers write code for their internal tools.

– Spotify uses GitHub Copilot to help their developers write code for their music streaming service.

– Airbnb uses GitHub Copilot to help their developers write code for their home rental service.

All of these businesses have discovered that Copilot can be particularly useful for generating code for new features and for automating repetitive tasks.

How Is Copilot Being Used In Different Industries?  

Here are some examples of ways that Microsoft 365 Copilot is being used in different industries:

– In the legal profession, law firms have been using Copilot to streamline their legal document creation process. The AI-powered assistant helps them draft legal documents, contracts and letters more efficiently. It also assists in proofreading and editing these documents, ensuring they are free of errors and are professionally written. This has significantly reduced the time lawyers spend on document creation, allowing them to focus more on their clients.

– Large retailers have been using Copilot to manage their internal and external communications. The AI assistant helps draft emails, create presentations and generate reports, thereby saving employees significant time. It also assists in scheduling meetings and managing tasks, improving overall productivity.

– In healthcare, private health companies / healthcare groups have used Copilot to manage their vast amount of healthcare data. The AI assistant helps them organise and analyse data, generate reports, and create presentations. Healthcare companies have found that it improves their decision-making process and has made their operations more efficient.

– Manufacturing companies have used Copilot to help manage their supply chain. The AI assistant helps them track inventory, schedule deliveries, and manage orders. This has improved their supply chain efficiency and has reduced operational costs.

– In the education sector, universities have found that Copilot can help manage their academic and administrative tasks. The AI assistant helps them schedule classes, manage student data, and create academic reports. This has improved their administrative efficiency and has made academic management easier.

What Are IT and Tech Companies Saying About Copilot? 

Many different technology consulting firms, IT support and managed service providers, and cloud solutions providers have published online examples of how Copilot can be used by businesses. For example:

– Using Copilot to streamline internal operations, e.g. using it to automate repetitive tasks, such as scheduling meetings and managing project timelines with the benefits of increased efficiency and productivity, allowing staff to focus on more strategic tasks.

– Copilot being used by businesses to enhance their customer service. For example, integrating it into a customer support system can provide instant responses to customer queries, reducing the workload on a customer service team and improving customer satisfaction.

– Using Copilot can be used to improve project management by automating the process of tracking project progress and managing project resources, resulting in improved project delivery times and reduced project costs.

– Copilot being used in conjunction with Microsoft Power Platform to enhance business processes, e.g. using it to build professional websites, process invoices, enhance chat experiences, analyse documents, and develop automated workflows.

– Using Copilot to automate workflows can reduce costly error rates.

Microsoft Says… 

Microsoft’s examples of how Copilot can be used in its 365 apps to help your business include:

– If using Microsoft Word, Copilot can save hours in writing, sourcing, and editing by being able to write a first draft, to edit and shorten it, rewrite it, or give feedback as required, in the same way as you might write a piece using ChatGPT.

– In Microsoft Teams, Copilot could save time and effort and make meetings more productive by being used to make a summary of key discussion points of meetings, including who said what, where people are aligned and where they disagree, and suggest action items, all in real-time during a meeting. It can also recap meetings for you and send you the notes afterwards.

– In PowerPoint, Copilot can create whole presentations from a simple text prompt and add any relevant content from a document you made, again saving time and effort. It can also improve creativity in PowerPoint and other apps, improving the quality of work and making it more interesting and engaging. This could be useful, for example, when pitching for business or conducting training.

– In Microsoft Excel, Copilot can instantly analyse trends and create insightful summaries and graphs of data, all done in seconds from simple text prompts. This could improve decision making and uncover new business insights and opportunities that may not have been possible, certainly not as quickly, just through normal human efforts.

– Email is an important communications channel for most businesses, and in Outlook, Copilot can save time by clearing an inbox in minutes, not hours, e.g., by drafting emails for you and analysing long email threads in seconds. This saves time, simplifies the process, and could help businesses to free up time to be used elsewhere in the business.

– Using Power Platform, Copilot can be also used to automate repetitive tasks, even creating chatbots, and can enable a fast transition from idea to working app in minutes. This gives developers a powerful time-saving tool that can increase their productivity.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?  

The power and versatility of AI natural language chatbots, which many people first experienced through ChatGPT, has seen them quickly adopted by businesses because of the value they add by saving time and boosting productivity in a user-friendly way. Embedding Copilot in 365’s apps has, therefore, given businesses an instant, flexible, and effective way to get much more out the most popular apps in Microsoft 365. As well as being a competitive advantage for Microsoft and for businesses, Copilot, therefore, offers businesses an easy-to-use way to save time, be more creative with IT, boost productivity, upskill staff in IT (without spending on training), and get greater and perhaps new insights into their own business and operations. As the examples in this article show, Microsoft 365 Copilot is adaptable, can be used in a wide variety of industries and can handle a range of tasks, making it a potentially valuable tool for any business that can improve efficiency and productivity and feed into improving the bottom line.

Tech News : 1.5 Million Seat NHS IT Support Deal

Microsoft and NHS England have announced the signing of new five-year contract whereby Microsoft (via a major reseller) will roll out the Microsoft 365 cloud-based online productivity suite to 1.5 million NHS staff.

Trusted Relationship Continues 

Coinciding with the 75th Anniversary of the NHS, Microsoft says the partnership, through a contract awarded to the reseller, will see it supply digital solutions – Microsoft’s 365 suite and security tools – to NHS organisations all over the country. The contract is believed to be worth £775 million (£930 million with VAT), is seen as the next step in a “trusted relationship” over decades.

Improving Collaboration, & Modernising 

The reseller which described the deal as “money saving” says that it will mean that NHS workers (doctors, nurses, clinicians, and support staff) will now be able to benefit from the full suite of Microsoft 365 workplace productivity apps, which will make collaboration easier and maximise time for care.

The reseller’s managing director said the deal will with NHS England will provide: “A platform for future innovation in healthcare”, and that the five-year contract “highlights the breadth and depth of skills [they] bring in managing, advising, and supporting the NHS to utilise secure cloud platforms, analytics, and apps”. 

Clare Barclay, Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft UK, said: “This agreement will ensure that NHS organisations can deliver efficiency, reform ways of working through collaboration tools and build resilience through a modern, secure cloud-based infrastructure”. 

Money Saving 

The money saving aspect of the deployment contract comes from negotiating one single, national NHS contract rather than, as in the past, negotiating separate software licences with different prices with each individual healthcare trust. John Quinn, Chief Information Officer at NHS England said the new contract is “a further great example of the NHS using our collective buying power to secure market-leading products at a reduced cost for taxpayers”. 

That said, the contract was only signed after £8m had been spent on emergency one-month extensions to previous arrangements.

Follows The Teams National Deal In 2020 

This new national deal follows the first national deal in March 2020 whereby the Microsoft Teams app was made available to all NHS staff, saving users an estimated 17 million hours of time by being able to have virtual meetings.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

For NHS England, the collective deal with an already familiar major Microsoft re-seller is a way of building on the success of the previous 2020 deal, moving more to the cloud, and improving the type of collaborative working that the NHS needs. Also, the deal brings modernisation, scope for innovation, and the kind of updated security that the NHS needs – health organisations with outdated security have been targets for cyber criminals in recent years. For the reseller, a near billion-pound new deal with a massive existing client is clearly good news and brings the security of continuing close relationship. For Microsoft, already dominant in this area, it’s another high-profile endorsement of its products that’s bought good publicity and enhanced an already profitable relationship through its resellers. With the NHS once more known to be the biggest purchaser of fax machines, this deal marks another big step towards modernisation of the tech aspects of its operation that could benefit all stakeholders.

Security Stop-Press : Office Open XML Signatures Have Security Flaws

Researchers from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany have reported that the Office Open XML (OOXML) Signatures, an Ecma/ISO standard used in Microsoft Office applications and open source OnlyOffice, have security flaws that could allow attackers to modify the content in signed documents, while the signatures are still displayed as valid. The researchers have informed Microsoft and proposed countermeasures to prevent such issues in the future which Microsoft is reported to have acknowledged and to have awarded the researchers with a bug bounty.