Microsoft Inspire 2023 Keynote: Partners Driving 'Era of AI'

Microsoft on Tuesday kicked off its annual Inspire partner conference in Redmond, Wash., with the sole focus on how partners can strengthen its customers through generative AI technology.

Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella took the stage to open the two day event to discuss how Microsoft is at the forefront of the AI technology revolution, and digital transformation across enterprises is being spurred through its strong partner community.

"There's no question that we are in the midst of a massive platform shift with the new generation of AI that will affect every sector, every category of computing," said Nadella, during his opening remarks.

Not only is it a massive shift, Nadella pointed to the gen-AI generation as the biggest technological advancement he has seen in his 30-plus years with Microsoft, which included the growth of home PCs, mobile devices and cloud computing. And this shift will help grow the entire partner and enterprise ecosystem.

"If you have an economy that’s around $100 trillion, we may have $7- to $10-trillion more of GDP growth driven by this next generation of AI technology," Nadella said.

Nadella acknowledged that, while Microsoft's message has revolved around generative AI for the past six months, this recent explosion has been possible due to the research and investments the company has made over the past few years. The culmination of its efforts, including Microsoft Copilot and ChatGPT integration, has helped to create a "first-class platform construct."

This week's Inspire conference will primarily focus on this total AI platform, and will include over 40 new updates and announcements, Nadella said. For his part, Nadella focused the rest of his opening comments focusing on a few highlights.

Visual Search in Bing Chat
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 1. Yusuf Mehdi demonstrates the new image-based search capabilities built into Bing Chat.

First up was the announcement and release of a new feature in Bing Chat, called "Visual Search," which uses Bing's ChatGTP AI capabilities to describe uploaded images. Nadella was joined on stage by Microsoft Consumer Chief Marketing Officer Yusuf Mehdi to demonstrate this latest addition, which is available today.

In the demo, Mehdi demonstrated the new "multimodal" Visual Search by uploading an architectural image. Results were then fed back pertaining to the type of architecture, history of the building and additional facts pertaining to the displayed image.

"It's incredible," said Mehdi. "Imagine being able to take pictures anywhere, and have Bing come back, for example, and have it tell you whether an international adaptor will work in a certain country."

Bing Chat Enterprise
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 2. Microsoft's Bing Chat Enterprise was announced today and is in preview.

Mehdi continued to join Nadella for the second announcement of the morning, Bing Chat Enterprise, which looks to provide a more-secure generative AI experience for organizations. Bing Chat Enterprise will be a more locked-down commercial offering vs. Bing chat for consumers.

"Bing Chat Enterprise now delivers commercial data protection for your AI-powered chats," said Mehdi. "This means your confidential business data won't leak outside your organization, your employees' data isn't comingled with Web data, data is not saved -- nobody at Microsoft can view your data -- and the chat conversations in Bing Chat are not used to train the underline AI model."

Mehdi said that Bing Chat Enterprise is now available in preview and will be free for some Microsoft 365 business licenses. In contrast, Microsoft 365 Copilot, which includes many of the same features as Bing Chat Enterprise, but built directly into Microsoft 365, will cost $30 per user per month.

Microsoft Sales Copilot
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 3. Nadella announces that Microsoft Sales Copilot has hit "general availability."

Nadella's next announcement concerned new Copilot hooks into its Dynamics platform. First, its Sales Copilot, a roles-based Copilot to help connect with customers, is officially in "general availability," as of Tuesday. This sales-based Copilot can connect with Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Dynamics 365 Sales or other third-party platforms, like Salesforce, to automate emails, meeting notes and customer insights.

"This [Microsoft Sales Copilot] allows any of us to stay in the flow of our activity with our customers --whether you're responding to an email or in a Teams meeting," said Nadella. "You get to stay in the flow with the customer and ground that activity of customer interaction with CRM data."

Power Automate Process Mining
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 4. Nadella discusses how businesses will increase efficiency through the new automation tool.

Next was the coming general availability announcement of the Process Mining capability in Power Automate, which creates maps of business processes. Through the extraction of event data from a system of records, it generates visualizations of an organization's processes, which then can be used to conduct process comparisons, identify the underlying causes of inefficiencies and streamline operations.

"Process Mining is the tip of the spear for you to be able to drive additional value to every customer interaction, every customer deployment, every customer project that you're engaged in," said Nadella.

The new capability will be commercially available starting Aug. 1.

Microsoft and Meta AI Partnership
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 5. Nadella discussed how integration of multiple language models will help developers to create the tools their customers need.

Nadella then moved on to the latest partnership that will bring Meta's large language model Llama 2 to Azure OpenAI and Windows. The open source Llama 2 will now be available in the Azure OpenAI modeling catalog for access by developers and will work natively on Windows.

"One of the most exciting things is to see these models being optimized for Windows so that application developers can now take advantage of both the frontier models of OpenAI, as well as the models that are available in open source to be able to transform every software category there is," said Nadella.

Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 6. Nadella announced that the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program will be receiving an AI facelift.

Nadella's final major announcement of the keynote featured a major change to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, which includes a name change to Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program. Starting today, partners will be able to take advantage of the revamped program, which will also add AI-based enhancements to its cloud offerings.

"But it's really exciting to see us completely revamp the investments and incentives so that you all can really take advantage of everything that this AI age has to offer, and drive both business growth for yourself, and most importantly, value for our customers," Nadella said.

You can read more about the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program here.