Microsoft extends Copilot access to individuals and SMBs

Two months after the launch of Copilot for Microsoft 365 to large businesses, Microsoft has expanded access to the generative AI (genAI) assistant for individual and small and midsize business (SMB) customers. Uptake is likely to be gradual, according to industry analysts, due to significant monthly charges. SMBs will be charged an additional $30 per user each month to access the genAI assistant within Microsoft 365, the company announced Monday, the same as those on enterprise plans. Individual customers will pay an extra $20 per month with the inclusion of Copilot Pro.

As part of the expanded access, Microsoft has done away with a minimum purchase commitment of 300 seats introduced with the launch of Copilot for Microsoft 365 to enterprise customers on E3 and E5 plans last November.

Copilot is the name of the natural language genAI assistant Microsoft has embedded into its business productivity and collaboration apps. The tool — which combines data in a customer’s Microsoft Graph with large language models (LLMs) including OpenAI’s ChatGPT — helps draft emails, summarize meeting conversations, and find information within documents.  

The latest announcement means Copilot is now available to customers across a wider range of Microsoft 365 payment plans. Following an early access program for smaller businesses, customers on Business Standard and Business Premium can now access the genAI assistant. 

The pricing strategy around Copilot likely reflects a “land and expand” approach, said Raúl Castañón, senior research analyst at 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence. He was describing how Microsoft prioritizes uptake among a smaller section of employees at first.

“At $30 per user each month, Microsoft is likely targeting tech-savvy early adopters — these users are more likely to see value in their investment,” said Castañón. “This strategy could help Microsoft accelerate adoption across the board, shortening the gap between early and late adopters.”

Jack Gold, founder and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, noted the significant extra cost of Copilot for SMBs, which pay between $12 and $22 month per user for access to Microsoft office apps. The additional outlay will make many think carefully about the value they receive.

“I think many SMBs will experiment with Copilot, but if they don’t find true value fairly quickly, will probably drop it,” Gold said.

It can take time to get the maximum value out of investments in Copilot, he said, with a notable learning curve for users. “So, it will necessitate SMB users being patient,” said Gold.

“All of that said, over time, I think Copilot will get easier to use and users will be more accepting of it,” he said. “I also think the price will eventually come down as well, making it more attractive for SMBs.”

Smaller firms typically lag larger organizations when it comes to AI adoption. A survey by 451 Research last year found that 60% of large enterprises with over 10,000 employees saw AI as the top disruptive technology their organization plans to adopt in the next 24 months; in contrast, 43% of SMBs with fewer than 250 staff members felt that way.

Even so, the survey found genAI to be a major focus for all organizations in terms of “awareness” and “intent to adopt.”

“This is likely influenced by the hype generated by Microsoft and ChatGPT,” said Castañón.

Copilot access has also been extended to a broader set of large business customers on Microsoft’s lower-cost Office 365 E3 and E5 plans — a cheaper alternative to Microsoft 365, with access to office productivity apps solely via the cloud.

The subscription option for individuals, Copilot Pro, is available to customers on Microsoft 365 Personal and Family payment plans. Copilot Pro includes access to OpenAI’s GPT-4 Turbo, the most advanced version of the LLM now available to customers. The genAI assistant is accessible in several Microsoft 365 apps, including Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote. (For Excel, Copilot is currently available in preview.)

There’s also access to AI-powered image creation via Microsoft’s Designer (formerly Bing Image Creator), and a tool for customizing Copilot workflows with access to the Copilot GPT Builder (“coming soon,” according to Microsoft). In addition, Microsoft’s Copilot mobile app for Android and iOS is now generally available.

Copyright © 2024 IDG Communications, Inc.


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