Amid Copilot Blitz, Microsoft Describes Partners' Roles

Copilot does not just "democratize AI" for Microsoft's end user customers; it democratizes AI for its partners, too.

That's at the core of Microsoft's partner-focused messaging from last week's Build conference, which was mostly a showcase of various Copilot-branded solutions, whether they're tied to hardware or software.

Developer Partners
Microsoft 365 already has its own Copilot AI assistant, but Microsoft is counting on its ISV partners to build little copilots that hook onto the productivity suite, especially Teams.

Per a blog post last week by Teams Ecosystem chief Srini Raghavan, there are already "thousands" of Copilot-based Teams extensions built by ISVs, and north of 145,000 "custom line-of-business apps."

"ISVs and customers have embraced Copilot to create unique and compelling experiences, and they're building them on a strong platform," Raghavan said. "Organizations can take full advantage of the existing user base on the Microsoft 365 platform, and when they build Copilot extensions and copilots, they can reach these users in the flow of work."

Raghavan touted Microsoft's options for Copilot development, from the low-code (e.g., Copilot Studio) to the pro-level (Visual Studio). To monetize their apps, ISVs also have a number of marketplace options, including the Teams store, Microsoft AppSource and the Azure Marketplace. Raghavan also invited ISVs to get their apps certified in the Microsoft 365 App Compliance program to attract security-minded customers.

"We're looking to you to create amazing experiences for your users that customize and enhance Copilot with your data, systems, and workflows," Raghavan said. "You can also build your own copilot that works as a standalone app, works with Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, and more."

Copilot+ PCs
Microsoft's new Copilot+ PCs are designed at the hardware level to support more AI workloads and to harness the Azure cloud's compute power. Said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the PCs' debut last week, they mark "a new category of devices that turn the world itself into a prompt."

They also mark new opportunities for partners, according to Mark Linton, head of device partner sales at Microsoft, in a blog post. "AI is capturing the consumer's imagination and I'm grateful for the critical role our retailer and channel partners play in helping customers choose the Windows PCs that are right for them," he said.

Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partners, for instance, stand to benefit from what's under the hood of the Copilot+ PCs. "AI PCs enable local AI processing at the edge, and we see extraordinary opportunity for [CSPs] to combine this new processing power with Cloud-based AI, to create brand new hybrid scenarios," Linton said. "Customers will be able to deploy solutions that take advantage of cloud scale, but also receive the benefits of local processing for lower latency, more granular data control and faster response times."

Similarly, ISV partners can leverage the new devices' hardware to build hybrid applications.

For solution providers, system integrators and deployment specialists, Linton pointed to the potential of a "major refresh opportunity," with organizations tapping partners to help them upgrade older PCs to new Copilot-powered ones.

The Copilot+ PCs are expected to hit retail starting June 18.

Industry Partners
Microsoft also spotlighted new Copilot-related capabilities that benefit partners focused on specific verticals.

"AI can deliver high-value experiences to workers across industries and regions -- all powered by the Microsoft Cloud," wrote Microsoft Corporate Vice President Satish Thomas in another blog post at Build. "At the heart of this transformation is our global ecosystem of partners and developers who build industry solutions on the Microsoft Cloud."

The Copilot Studio product has two new templates for creating custom AI assistants: one for retailers (the "store operations" template) and one for teams concerned with sustainability ("sustainability insights"). In addition, there are new industry-specific prompts coming to the Microsoft Copilot Lab that "will help customers quickly get started using Copilot for sector, job, and role-specific scenarios."

The Microsoft Fabric data platform also has new modules to help industry partners sort and standardize their customers' data estates so they can eventually be used to ground AI models. In preview as of Build are Fabric data solutions for healthcare, retail and sustainability.

"[C]opilots are impacting nearly every industry and business function," said Thomas, "such as healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, and agriculture."

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.